You won't need to switch your phone off inflight with Qantas' new inflight internet and SMS access service.
Qantas has announced it will introduce inflight internet across its fleet of domestic aircraft, initially on a number of domestic B767-300 and A330-200 aircraft.
But it won't be WiFi -- it'll be done through a mobile phone mini-base station in the plane which will provide GPRS and SMS access for mobile devices like Blackberries and other smartphones.
All you will need, says Qantas, is a global roaming account for your SIM card -- a hint that the service will be very, very expensive. You certainly won't be wanting to whip out your laptop mobile broadband card and log on via HSDPA, lest you rack up a bill running into the thousands for your flight between Sydney and Perth.
Qantas Executive General Manager, Mr John Borghetti, said the airline had evaluated the technology on a B767-300 aircraft between April 2007 and January 2008.
"The evaluation of this new technology was a great success," Mr Borghetti said. "An overwhelming majority of passengers involved in the evaluation indicated they wanted access to inflight connectivity on an ongoing basis."
“We will continue to be the market leader in introducing innovative business relevant products and services. This next generation technology will allow them to use their inflight time more effectively,” he said.
Qantas has used AeroMobile's technology, which has developed a base station that allows mobile phones and portable devices to be used safely inflight without interference to aircraft systems or the ground communication network.
“Customers wanting to send or receive an SMS will require only a GSM phone and a global roaming account, while customers wanting to send or receive emails will need a GPRS enabled device like a Blackberry or an appropriately equipped laptop,” Mr Borghetti said.
Mr Borghetti said Qantas and its partners were working with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and other agencies to ensure the system operated in accordance with Australian regulatory and legal requirements.
Voice calls can be supported by the technology but Qantas is not offering this service.