Shenzhen Airlines says that it will start running mobile phone service on some of its flights before the Beijing Olympic Games begin in August.
Li Kun, president of Shenzhen Airlines, says that the company has selected three airplanes to install the GSM mobile communications equipment, satellite communications components and antenna provided by OnAir to support the mobile phone inflight calling service. Ki says that the company plans to make mobile phone calls possible on all of the company's flights before the end of 2009.
In consideration of safety, mobile phone calling in China has been banned inflight since 1991 because mobile phone signals might affect a plane's navigation. However, mobile phone calling service to be provided by Shenzhen Airlines will apparently have no effect on the planes because the signals are not connected with the ground network.
The passenger's device connects to the OnAir system via a mini base-station on the aircraft, based around a picocell, which picks up signals from PDAs and phones and sends them to a satellite. From there, they go to OnAir's ground network, then out to the public network. The OnAir technology will allow up to 12 simultaneous calls per picocell, as well as unlimited SMS text messages and emails. If required, further picocells can be added, increasing the number of simultaneous calls. Passengers also will be able to turn on their mobile phones and GPRS devices and use them as if they were on the ground.
OnAir was formed in 2005 to develop and operate inflight passenger communications services. It is owned by SITA, the airline-owned provider of IT solutions and communications services to the air transport industry, and Airbus, one of the world's leading aircraft manufacturers.OnAir is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, and has operations in Seattle, London and Montreal.