““[Bill Gates] has been historically one of my best supporters…One of my favorite e-mails he ever sent me…I proposed this crazy project. And he sent back this two-line response: ‘This has got to be the craziest thing you’ve ever suggested. Please proceed.’” ”
In-flight Cellphone Use Creeps Closer
Even as the FCC and FAA continue to find reasons not to approve in-flight use of personal cellphones, European authorities apparently have no such qualms. At the Paris Air Show in June, mobile telephony service provider OnAir announced that the European Aviation Safety Authority has certified the airborne GSM equipment that supports OnAir services for use on the Airbus A318. It will allow passengers to use BlackBerry and similar hand-held devices. [GSM-for Global System for Mobile communications-is the most popular standard for cellphones in the world.-Ed.]
Following certification of other parts of the system (including its Thales TopFlight satellite communications terminals), the first service will become operational later this year on an Air France aircraft. An OnAir spokesman said the company, a joint venture with Airbus, currently is not targeting business aviation or the U.S. market, but that "it is coming."
Separately, France-based Thales announced that later this year a TopFlight terminal will be installed on a new business jet, which the company declined to identify. The terminal initially will be a voice-over-Internet-protocol system (VOIP) to avoid the country-by-country regulatory approvals barrier that the GSM services have to surmount.