It’s so cool, but it’s also a bummer

Tomorrow’s launch by British Airways (BA) of new business-class only Airbus A318 service between London City and JFK brings with it the transatlantic launch of OnAir’s in-flight mobile connectivity services.

At the risk of sounding like my five-year old – That’s, like, so cool!

image001 (12).JPGOnAir’s services are supported by SwiftBroadband, Inmarsat’s higher-bandwidth satellite technology. Passengers aboard the BA A318 will be able to use their own mobile phones or smartphones (such as a BlackBerry device) for text messages, emails and Internet access.


However, the system will have to be shut down as soon as the A318 hits US airspace. Why? Because the US FCC and FAA still disallow the in-flight use of cell phones or, as BA consumer PR manager Michael Johnson noted in an interview with RWG this morning: “They do not allow the use of mini cell networks on aircraft.”


Pulling from my five-year old’s vocabulary once again – What a bummer!


We know all about this sad state of affairs in the USA, of course, but I think it’s worth underscoring just how insane is US regulation on this matter and how lawmakers have used scare tactics to keep it that way.


Personally, I’d love to PICO into their brains to understand where these lawmakers are coming from (although there may be some light at the end of the tunnel).


BA will not allow the in-flight use of cell phones for voice calls, at least not initially. “We know that customer opinion has been sharply divided,” says Johnson, noting that the carrier is “erring on the side of caution because we know it can be very divisive”.   


With that said, however, BA will monitor customer feedback and if consumers show a willingness to have voice service, it’s “something we’d consider”.


For those passengers who think they can get around the rules by using Skype via OnAir, good luck to ya. “The bandwidth is limited in some respects,” says Johnson, adding that it wouldn’t be able to support Skype, or streaming video like YouTube.

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4 Responses to It’s so cool, but it’s also a bummer

  1. Dave September 28, 2009 at 1:04 pm #

    The lobbyists for the in-flight phone dudes need to phony up some more cash… everything is available for a price- this is America after all. You don’t need to PICO into their brains, I can tell you what they’re thinking, “Where’s my cut?

  2. Mat September 28, 2009 at 3:16 pm #

    Mary, have you seen this piece regarding In Flight Comms in the New York Times?
    it’s a good perspective on that British Airways A318 story…

  3. Mary September 28, 2009 at 3:36 pm #

    Thanks Mat. I like the comment – the horse is out of the barn. Indeed it is!

  4. pundit September 29, 2009 at 6:49 pm #

    Me thought RWG’s headline ‘bummer’ ref would lead to a story re BA’s charge for seat allocation…