In July of this year, AirCell will begin conducting flight demonstrations with a prototype of a system that will allow commercial airline passengers to use their personal mobile phones and other wireless devices in flight over a broadband air-to-ground link. The demonstrations will mark a major milestone in the company's development program, allowing potential airline customers and other key industry observers to personally experience the system's powerful capabilities in real time.
Targeted for commercial deployment in 2006, the AirCell Broadband System will incorporate a fully-integrated wireless cabin connected to the ground over a dedicated terrestrial broadband air-to-ground link.
Commercial airlines will be able to install and operate the AirCell Broadband System at a fraction of the cost of satellite-based alternatives. Passengers will be able to operate their own mobile phones, laptops and other personal electronic devices in flight at prices very similar to what they pay on the ground. With these attributes, the System will permit the rapid rollout and widespread use of inflight calling and a host of popular high-speed "airborne office" services including e-mail, Internet, corporate VPNs, and text messaging.
The flight demonstration program will showcase an advanced prototype of the AirCell Broadband System aboard a custom-equipped private jet. Key components of the demonstration System include:
A broadband terrestrial air-to-ground link that provides a high-speed connection directly from the aircraft to the ground. The link will utilize a limited number of ground cellular sites temporarily outfitted with special antennas and electronics under AirCell's experimental license from the FCC. The technology employed will provide a "to-the-seat" user experience that averages 300 to 500 Kbps, with peak speeds of 3.1 Mbps -- comparable to a typical WiFi 'hotspot.'
An Iridium satellite link that provides extended, global coverage for voice and low-speed data service when outside U.S. terrestrial coverage. This link can be integrated with the domestic broadband link, or serve as a stand-alone off-aircraft link outside the U.S.
A cabin Picocell that allows demonstration participants to place and receive calls on their own personal cellular phones.
A Cabin Telecommunications Router (CTR) that provides high-speed, in-cabin wireless connectivity for WiFi-equipped laptops (802.11b/g) and personal digital assistants.
AirCell's Background in Airborne Cellular
AirCell remains the only company ever to receive regulatory approval to use cellular frequencies for airborne telecommunications. Having operated its own terrestrial network in the United States for many years, AirCell has more experience with airborne cellular than any organization in the world.
Building on its success, the company is now leveraging this unique experience in developing its next generation of airborne connectivity bringing affordable broadband voice and data services to airline passengers. Operating over a new, next-generation digital network in North America, the AirCell Broadband System is targeted for initial airline trials beginning in mid-2006. Pending the acquisition of a spectrum license from the FCC, the AirCell network will initially cover the continental U.S. and will be expandable to include Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.