yesterday announced that the European Aviation Safety Authority (EASA) has
certified the airborne GSM equipment, which supports OnAir services on Airbus
A318. For the first time, this will enable airline passengers in Europe to use
their GSM mobile phones during flights.
EASA is the competent authority in the European Union with responsibility for
the airworthiness certification of all aeronautical products. As such, it
develops common safety rules at the European level and is also responsible for
Benoit Debains, CEO of OnAir, said, "The airborne equipment has been
designed to meet the specific needs of the aviation environment. This
certification validates the integrity of the work that Airbus has done in
developing and integrating technology from best of breed suppliers. Debains
continued, "This airworthiness certification is a major milestone in the
process of bringing our service to market. It follows successful testing
earlier this year."
The OnAir mobile telephony service will allow passengers to use their mobile
phones during flights to send and receive E-Mails and text messages as well as
make and receive calls. The service will be launched on an Air France aircraft,
followed by bmi (Great Britain) and TAP (Portugal) aircraft. All three airlines
will run single aircraft commercial trials on Airbus aircraft, which will allow
them to fine-tune their passenger communications offer and evaluate it before
embarking on a fuller-scale deployment. The first fleet deployment of OnAir's
services will be on Ryanair's (Ireland) Boeing 737 aircraft.
While I definitely appreciate a system which can be used for SMS and data,
I'm still not a big fan of the idea someone beside you can make phone calls.
Imagine you are in the tourist class and the guy next to you is talking with his
office 3 hours. How scary. Nevertheless, the OnAir system allows the cabin crew
to switch on the "text-only" mode. In this mode, only data connections and text
messaging is possible.
Last but not least the bad news: At the moment, OnAir supports GSM and GPRS
only. Neither EDGE nor UMTS are supported which means OnAir isn't a real data
replacement for Boeing's
discontinued Connexion by Boeing which provided inflight W-LAN brodband
services in the past. Therefore OnAir might be good enough to send/receive SMS,
MMS and E-Mail messages - web surfing isn't a joy while VoIP is technically
Cheers ~ Arne