Airborne cellular communications specialist Aircell and Motorola have completed the first in-flight demonstration of a technology that promises to allow in-flight use of mobile telephones.

The test involved so-called 'Bluetooth' technology, developed by a consortium of telecommunications companies, which enables wireless communication between portable electronic devices using embedded low-power, short-range transceivers.

Use of mobile phones while airborne is prohibited almost everywhere because of the potential interference with ground cellular networks, and the possible interference with aircraft electronics.

AirCell has overcome the first objection by developing an airborne system that is compatible with ground networks. Bluetooth promises to overcome the second .

AirCell handsets are hard-wired to the aircraft, but Bluetooth transceivers will allow wireless communication between a passenger's phone or laptop and the Aircell system at low power levels, eliminating the possibility of interference.

AirCell markets its service mainly to general aviation, but it has completed its first regional airline installation. Comair has begun trials of the system to downlink aircraft and engine data from a Bombardier CRJ regional jet.

Source: Flight International