Australian airline Qantas is the first carrier to conduct commercial trials of Inmarsat-routed SMS text messaging and GPRS data links using technology developed by Inmarsat.
“During the 12-month trial, Qantas passengers flying on a Boeing 767 can send SMS and email messages from their mobile phones,” says local Inmarsat distributor SatComms chairman Anthony Glass.
Glass said it is possible to implement the technology in South Africa and SatComms is in discussions with a number of local airlines.
Lesley Grant, Qantas' group manager of customer product and services, said business travelers have expressed strong interest in using their mobile phones in the air because it would allow them to continue working uninterrupted.
The trial has received the blessing of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).
ACMA approved the in-flight cellular communication trial for 12 months on one Qantas aircraft and has said it will consider "the potential for permanent regulatory arrangements for the service" once it collects and analyses results from the evaluation programme.
The data traffic for the trial is being passed over Inmarsat's network using the aeronautical Swift 64 Mobile Packet Data Service.