V Australia is to start offering in-flight mobile connectivity to passengers on its Boeing 777-300ERs in the second quarter.
The carrier, which offers Panasonic's latest generation eX2 in-flight entertainment (IFE) system, is also a customer of eXPhone, Panasonic's branding for AeroMobile's mobile connectivity solution.
When eXPhone goes live in the second quarter, it will represent the first time an airline has offered IFE integrated with cellular deployment, says AeroMobile.
"There are unique benefits to eXPhone - weight savings [are achieved] through the use of existing IFE server and control panel. The economy savings [are driven] by the fact that there is less hardware needed due to IFE reuse," says AeroMobile.
Another benefit of the dual server redundant architecture for cellular is that there is "greater up time and reliability", says AeroMobile. And, with eXPhone, Panasonic part numbers and warranty are on the AeroMobile hardware.
Significantly, with this sort of truly integrated in-flight entertainment and cellular connectivity (IFEC) approach, there is major room for V Australia to offer value-added services in the future (a topic I covered extensively last year).
V Australia currently operates four 777s. All four have had full eXPhone provisions installed by Boeing from the factory (trays, wiring, cct breakers and leaky feeder cable), according to AeroMobile.
Three more aircraft will be fully type certified by Boeing from the factory. In other words, they will depart the factory fully operational. Aircraft 5 delivers in the fourth quarter of 2010.
Many approvals are required to operate cellular services on Australian registered aircraft. Indeed, while Australia is gearing up to allow mobile phone use for SMS and GPRS, it hasn't yet sanctioned in-flight voice calls.
"AeroMobile has been working closely with the Australian authorities and its stakeholders to conclude the necessary operational frameworks. This work has resulted in some level of public consultation regarding a revised regulatory class licensing regime, as led by the ACMA," says AeroMobile, which is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Telenor.
(Photo above from Elite Choice at elitechoice.org)