The European Aeromobile group, controlled by Norway’s Telenor, has won the right to supply what appears to be a less than thrilling service for Australians who want to use mobile devices to access the Internet while on passenger aircraft. As part of the contract they will be allowed to block other carriers.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority late last week approved radiocommunications licensing arrangements that permit the use of mobile phones “and PDAs” (remember them?) on aircraft flying in Australian airspace.
The system will involve the use of onboard jammers to prevent connections to terrestrial services like Telstra’s Next G. The preferred option – currently offered only by Aeromobile – is for an onboard pico-cell connecting to an Inmarsat satellite.
That means international roaming charges – even though passengers never leave Australian airspace – on top of anything the airlines decide to charge for the service.
The Aeromobile service offers connections at GPRS speeds, hardly likely to appeal to laptop and iPad owners. In effect, any services will be largely limited to SMS and text messages – Australia’s airlines have, it’s understood, decided to ban voice calls, due to the understandable desire of fellow passengers for a bit of peace and quiet.
International airlines will have to abide by the Australian rules once they enter our airspace. Thus passengers on Emirates, and other airlines now adopting more sophisticated inflight broadband connections, seem likely to be told to switch off once they cross the coast.