AeroMobile, OnAir team up to fight US "Hang-Up Act"

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Rivals AeroMobile and OnAir have teamed up to fight US legislation that is intended to outlaw the in-flight use of mobile phones for voice communications.

The two firms have created the In-flight Passenger Communications Coalition in hopes of convincing lawmakers not to pass the so-called "Hang-Up Act".

Introduced by Representative Peter DeFazio, the "Hang-Up Act" seeks to impose a permanent federal ban on wireless voice communications during flights, although it ignores wired voice communications.

It is expected to head to the floor of the US House of Representatives in October.

"The legislation may or may not become law. In the meantime, it is creating sufficient uncertainty in the market to prevent [US] airlines making any decisions about in-flight voice services, leading to stagnation in the market and putting the US behind the rest of the world," says OnAir CEO Benoit Debains.

He adds: "The legislation would remove airlines' choice to offer in-flight cell phone voice services, in turn denying passengers the convenience and choice of connectivity that consumers in other countries already enjoy today."

The In-flight Passenger Communications Coalition seeks "to balance the discussion and make sure that updated, accurate information is available to the parties", says AeroMobile VP strategy and external relationships David Coiley.

"Once the facts of the matter are understood, any reasonably minded person would say 'the legislation is not necessary'."

Rapidly being adopted in Europe and the Middle East, in-flight communication services allows airline passengers to use their own cell phone and smartphones to send and receive voice calls, text messages, emails and web access as if they were on the ground.

"We've gotten data to back up that the sky hasn't fallen on anyone's head from this," says Coiley.

The US Federal Communications Commission currently maintains a ban on in-flight cell phone usage. Many in-flight connectivity stakeholders believe, however, that this ban will eventually be dropped in the event that federal rulemaking does not thwart the process.