WAEA2008: Ryanair testing of OnAir mobile to start mid-month

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Irish budget carrier Ryanair should start testing in-flight mobile phone use within the next couple of weeks after the process of gaining regulatory approval and certification took longer than expected, resulting in the carrier missing its original July start date to roll-out the service.

At one point the trials were to begin in August, but Benoit Debains CEO of the carrier's in-flight mobile suppliers OnAir tells ATI at the World Airline Entertainment Association (WAEA) conference that the companies are targeting mid-month to start the service. Ryanair plans to use the service on 10-14 aircraft flying from Dublin.

Trials of the OnAir system are also scheduled to begin on a BMI Airbus A320 before the end of the month as well, says Debains.

The company just ended a six month trial of mobile phone and Blackberry use on an Air France Airbus A319 and Debains says the two companies are in further discussions.

Chinese carrier Shenzhen Airlines is bypassing trials of the system completely and should start offering its passengers mobile phone use through OnAir before the end of the year after its original target date to debut the service near the Olympic games slipped.

AirAsia's debut of the OnAir service is set happen during the first quarter of next year.

Utilizing the Immarsat SwiftBroadband satellite network Debains says during the Air France trials the system could handle six voice calls at one time and unlimited Blackberry use.

During the second quarter of next year OnAir is expanding the mobile capability to handle 12 calls. Debains explains carriers could expand the number of calls available to 24 through the addition of a second base transceiver station onboard.

Debains notes Air France had no operational problems with the OnAir system, whose equipment weighs about 85 kilos, and flight attendants had no additional workload.