DN - Defence Notes

AeroMobile wins access to customers of top Malaysian cellphone provider

7th March 2009 - 19:44 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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Onboard cellphone company AeroMobile has finalised a roaming agreement with leading Malaysian mobile operator Maxis Communications. Maxis customers flying on a single Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 can now roam onto the AeroMobile air-to-ground network to make voice calls and send text messages and email.
 
The Malaysian carrier is trialling the service with a view to introducing it across its whole fleet if the outcome is satisfactory. The AeroMobile-equipped 777-200 is being used on routes to Europe, Australia and across Asia, including China and Japan.

AeroMobile’s success in securing a key roaming agreement highlights one of the main challenges facing not only the ARINC/Telenor company but also OnAir, its Geneva-based rival. Last month Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary castigated Irish mobile operators for dragging their feet over giving their customers access to the OnAir service being trialled aboard 20 Dublin-based Boeing 737s.  

Maxis post-paid customers can use their mobile phones and BlackBerry-type devices for inflight communications. Making and receiving voice calls costs £2.87/$4 a minute. The charge for sending or receiving data is £19.15/$27 per megabyte. It costs £0.57/$0.81 to send a text, while receiving is free. Maxis says it expects these rates to fall as the service develops.

Early experience from the trial, which started last November, suggests that business travellers and other frequent fliers favour text messaging and other data communications. Maxis is therefore offering an introductory rate of £0.19/$0.27 per text until April 15.

Malaysia Airlines is being careful to head off any possible problems of nuisance in the cabin. Passengers are being given guidelines that include a request that phones be switched to silent mode in flight. And cabin crew have been trained to remind passengers of the need for consideration, particularly during night flights.

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