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Wed 6 Sep 2006 04:00 AM

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In-flight mobile phone calls to take off in MENA

Air travel with full mobile phone accessibility, except for during take-off and landing, will be standard by 2010, management consultancy firm, Booz Allen Hamilton has claimed.

Air travel with full mobile phone accessibility, except for during take-off and landing, will be standard by 2010, management consultancy firm, Booz Allen Hamilton has claimed.

Usage rates will exceed 100 million passengers in Europe alone, according to the company’s principal, Dr Uwe Lambrette, and airlines that decide to adopt mobile phone technology first, effectively giving them a competitive advantage, will cash-in.

The average per-minute price is projected to start at US $1, but this is expected to drop to between 50 and 75 cents per-minute after 2008 when market penetration is higher.

Karim Sabbagh, vice president, Booz Allen Hamilton, noted that mobile telephony would become increasingly important in the Middle East where airports such as Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Jeddah and Riyadh were witnessing large year-on-year traffic increases.

“If you combine that with the fact that mobile phone penetration is advancing rapidly in the region, you can see why something such as onboard base stations would be of considerable importance,” he said.

Mobile phones are currently banned on commercial flights because of their potential to disturb the aircraft’s sensitive electronic systems.

Solutions developed to date include fitting onboard base stations that reduce interference.

Air France is set to pioneer in-flight mobile phone technology in March when its new Airbus A318 aircraft fitted with the OnAir system takes off, serving short-haul routes within Europe and to and from North African destinations.

OnAir, essentially emulates a mobile network inside an aircraft.

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