In-Flight Cell Phones in Europe by 2006

Siemens and Airbus have joined forces to bring ordinary cell phone calls to airline passengers by 2006. Siemens would provide on-board GSM base stations that would not cause interference to in-flight communications. Airbus would build the systems and market it to airlines through its joint venture with SITA called OnAir.

The first airplanes equipped with the new service would show up on Airbus A320 planes flying on routes through Western Europe by the second half of 2006. Also, the technology could be installed on planes produced by Airbus rival Boeing.

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Boeing had said previously that it planned to offer a similar service sometime next year.

The on-board cell phone service would also be controllable by the flight crew, meaning that an airline would be able to enforce "quiet times" on board aircraft by switching features on and off.

"This is a significant milestone," George Copper, CEO of OnAir said. "We are very pleased that such a strong player in the telecom industry is taking on a critical role in making the OnAir vision happen."

OnAir already offers SMS and mail services on several planes, include Iberia, Northwest Airlines, Qantas and Virgin Atlantic.

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