updated 03:15 pm EST, Thu December 20, 2007
Air France tests cellular
Air France has become the world's first airline to equip an international flight with a form of regular cellular technology, says the Associated Press. One of the company's Airbus A318s now lets users send e-mail and text messages through an onboard GSM antenna, which connects to a satellite that in turn transmits to the ground. The main obstacle for the service, at the moment, is infrequency; aside from only being a part of a six-month test, not all flights on the A318 will have access. To this end a "No Mobile" light has been installed in the plane.
Airlines have traditionally banned any cellphone use on planes, for fear that it could confuse navigation systems or other electronics. The push for data communications on aircraft has increased dramatically throughout 2007 however, with airlines such as JetBlue and Virgin America resurrecting Wi-Fi following the death of Boeing's Connexion service.
The company that installed Air France's antenna, OnAir, plans to install more such hardware on several local airlines around the world by mid-2008. AeroMobile has installed cellular service for Australia's Qantas meanwhile, but the airline is only testing it on domestic flights.