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Report: Travelers Want In-Flight Phone Service

By | September 20, 2004

      Teamwork between two industry providers of mobile-satellite voice services onboard aircraft led to the unveiling of a new study that shows higher demand than expected among passengers for such services. ARINC of Annapolis, Md., and Telenor Satellite Services of Oslo, Norway, found that nearly half of all international business fliers would prefer to travel on airlines that allow the use of mobile phones in flight. That result was based on answers to a survey of 1,200 international business and leisure travelers at two U.K. airports: London Heathrow and Gatwick.

      Not surprisingly, the companies are looking to tap that interest by rolling out an in-flight GSM mobile service. The idea, called ARINC-Telenor Mobile Connectivity, will be demonstrated this week at the World Airline Entertainment Association (WAEA) in Seattle.

      The research shows a “pent-up passenger demand” for in-flight mobile service, said Graham Lake, ARINC’s vice president and managing director, Europe, Middle East and Africa. Roughly 83 percent of business fliers now carry their mobile phones in flight, while about half carry a laptop computer. Worldwide, there are more than 1.5 billion mobile phone subscribers, with almost 75 percent using GSM technology, he added.

      Many planes could be equipped easily with the new ARINC-Telenor service because more than 1,900 aircraft already have the required Inmarsat hardware onboard. Passengers would be able to use personal GSM mobile phones in flight, just as they can on the ground, without contracts, sign-ups, credit cards or dialing extra digits. Pricing reportedly would be comparable to international roaming rates on the ground, and the passengers’ wireless provider would bill for minutes used.

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