“As a long term Verizon customer, I was glad to hear the iPhone was coming. However since I travel worldwide I called Verizon support to find out exactly what the issues would be internationally. The support person confirmed that the iPhone will not support GSM. Ouch! This means that I will have to wait for a newer version of the iPhone as there is no getting around that without GSM, you can’t use it most countries”…Comment from Tim on EverythingiCafe
I feel Tim’s pain. As a long-disgruntled AT&T customer (AT&T could try the patience of a saint), I too waited with bated breath for Verizon to finally reach agreement with Apple for the iPhone. And I too was disappointed to learn that the initial Verizon iPhone is not at the very least a hybrid CDMA/GSM solution. It only supports CDMA, the dominant network standard for North America and parts of Asia, but not GSM-happy Europe, and certainly not in-flight mobile connectivity currently on offer.
Go to minute 2:10 of the following video for a clear explanation (nice scarf):
AeroMobile and OnAir, the two main providers of in-flight mobile connectivity, emulate local GSM networks inside aircraft. As such, travelers with Verizon CDMA iPhones will not be able to use mobile connectivity on aircraft operated by a growing number of international carriers (in addition to a raft of other places).
I know the issue of in-flight mobile connectivity in the United States is thorny (see MSNBC’s “Shut Up and Fly” piece, where yours truly is quoted). However, it was none other than Qualcomm and American Airlines that laid the groundwork for in-flight voice communications using commercially available CDMA cell phones way back in 2004 (at a time when it appeared the USA was actually going to act sensibly about mobile connectivity, and drop the long-standing ban). Don’t believe me? See my ATI article below from 15 July 2004.
He [an American spokesman] says American is “interested in anything that could provide cell phones, text messaging, or the Internet or anything that could provide entertainment”, but notes the airline is “not tied to Qualcomm”, one of several companies seeking to facilitate cellular phone use inflight.
Meanwhile, as I lament Verizon’s CDMA-based iPhone, I can comfort myself with the knowledge that the next iPhone 5 might support both CDMA and GSM, thanks to a dual mode Qualcomm chipset (naturally).
American tests Qualcomm’s inflight cellular technology
Mary Kirby, Washington DC (15Jul04, 21:45 GMT, 239 words)
American Airlines today conducted an airborne demonstration of technology that allows inflight use of mobile cellular telephones.
The carrier tested Qualcomm’s mobile phone technology onboard a Boeing MD-80 circling over Dallas, Texas.
Qualcomm used an in-cabin third generation pico cell installed on the aircraft to facilitate the test. Pico cell technology is one widely proposed path for ensuring there is no interference from mobile phones with onboard avionics.
An American spokesman says that during the “proof of concept flight”, government representatives and media successfully made air-to-ground calls using a standard CDMA mobile phone.
American is keen to offer passengers the ability to use their own cellular telephones and two-way pagers inflight. “We want to be close to the leading edge of this technology…because we think this is something that is important to our customers,” says the spokesman.
He says American is “interested in anything that could provide cell phones, text messaging, or the Internet or anything that could provide entertainment”, but notes the airline is “not tied to Qualcomm”, one of several companies seeking to facilitate cellular phone use inflight.
Looking forward, American believes that passengers will be able to use their cellular phones during flight in about two years, once regulatory issues are ironed out.
Current federal regulations and airline require cellular phones to be turned off while the aircraft is airborne, in large part due to concerns that they would interfere with aircraft communication and navigation systems.
Source: Air Transport Intelligence news