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International Passengers ask for Mobile Phones in Flight

Almost half of all international business travelers would like mobile phone access in flight. The survey of 1,200 international business and lesirure travelers was conducted by Telenor and ARINC Inc. at the London Heathrow and Gatwick airports.

The companies are marketing an inflight GSM mobile phone service for passengers – ARINC-Telenor Mobile Connectivity. They plan to demonstrate their system at the World Airline Entertainment Association (WAEA) in Seattle, WA, Sept. 21-24.

“Our research shows a pent-up passenger demand for in-flight mobile service,” stated Graham Lake, ARINC Vice President and Managing Director, Europe, Middle East and Africa. “Fully 83% of business fliers now carry their mobile phones in flight, while about half carry a laptop computer. The world today has more than 1.5 billion mobile phone subscribers, with almost 75% using GSM technology.”

Many planes could be readily equipped with the ARINC-Telenor service because more than 1,900 already have the classic Inmarsat hardware needed. ARINC and Telenor are offering airlines a comprehensive, one-stop implementation package. The technology allows passengers to use personal GSM mobile phones in flight just as on the ground – and without any enrollments, sign-ups, credit cards, or dialing of extra digits. The system treats the world’s airspace just like calling another country. Passengers are charged a reasonable fee, similar to international roaming rates on the ground. Calls are ttransparently billed to passengers’ mobile accounts by their own cellular providers.

“Passengers can roam onto this system as easily as visiting a new country. They can make calls, accept incoming calls, and send or receive text messages,” said Berit Svendsen, chief technical officer for Telenor. “Close to a third of business passengers found this concept very appealing, and as much as 28% of all passengers were willing to pay as much as three to six dollars per minute for inflight mobile service. More than half of all respondents would send and receive text messages as well.”

The research was conducted in June-July 2004 by IMDC (Inflight Management Development Centre), an independent UK-based company that specializes in management support services for the in-flight business sector).

About Fabrizio Pilato

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