Qualcomm Tests 3G In-Flight

Qualcomm and American Airlines successfully tested in-cabin communications that allow CDMA mobile phones to place calls in-flight.

Qualcomm Incorporated pioneer and world leader of Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) digital wireless technology, and American Airlines, the world’s largest carrier, today successfully demonstrated in-cabin voice communications using commercially available CDMA mobile phones on a commercial American Airlines aircraft. Through the use of an in-cabin third-generation (3G) “picocell” network, passengers on the test flight were able to place and receive calls as if they were on the ground.

The proof-of-concept demonstration flight originated out of the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. During the approximate two-hour flight, passengers were able to place and receive phone calls and text messages on their mobile phones. Passengers included members of the media and government representatives.

A small in-cabin CDMA cellular base station on the plane, that uses standard cellular communications, was connected to the worldwide terrestrial phone network by an air-to-ground Globalstar satellite link.

The information gathered during this proof-of-concept demonstration flight will be used to further research into the quality, convenience and safety of communications with personal CDMA mobile phones carried by passengers on a commercial aircraft.

“We are pleased to have worked so closely with American Airlines to complete this proof-of-concept demonstration for the in-flight use of 3G CDMA technology,” said Dr. Irwin Jacobs, chairman and CEO of Qualcomm. “Together, we have anticipated the future needs of wireless subscribers in the airline industry and are aggressively driving the delivery of innovative solutions to meet those needs.”

“Today, American Airlines and Qualcomm showcased their strength as technology pioneers and market leaders in their respective industries,” said Dan Garton, executive vice president of marketing for American Airlines. “American is committed to researching and providing innovative, cutting-edge products and services that enhance our passengers’ traveling experience and give our customers what they value. Even though commercial availability of cell phone use in flight is approximately 24 months away, American Airlines knows that our customers want to stay connected and this proof-of-concept event is an important step in bringing in-cabin wireless services to our customers.”


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