Trials of OnAir’s in-flight GSM mobile telephone service by Star Alliance partners BMI and TAP Portugal will primarily aim to improve understanding of how passengers will use the new capability, rather than test the technology itself.

The Sita-led mobile connectivity joint venture, which also comprises aircraft manufacturer Airbus and airborne internet service provider Tenzing, has revealed BMI and TAP will become the first carriers to test OnAir’s in-flight GSM mobile telephone service. Trials are due to begin on selected short-haul services late next year after certification and telecommunications regulatory approval has been secured.

Speaking at last week’s World Airline Entertainment Association exhibition in Hamburg, OnAir chief executive George Cooper said: “This is not a trial of the technology. This is a trial to establish how we operate the service, how passengers will use it.”

He says this will form a benchmark for the industry in how to offer the service and for utilisation levels – information that will form the foundation of revenue-sharing agreements between airlines and the service provider.

The trials will include two or three Airbus A320s and A321s from BMI and TAP. “We’ll get two different-sized aircraft, a mix of routes and two countries’ [outlook] and will learn a lot,” says Cooper.

Prices for the service will reflect the current international roaming rates for mobile telephone service. Cooper says the company has incorporated price deflation into the business model to reflect an expected fall in the price of international roaming rates over the coming years.


Source: Flight International