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Aircraft Interiors: Aeromobile looks forward to customer surge

2nd April 2009 - 17:41 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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Onboard mobile phone service provider AeroMobile could see its customer base almost quadruple in size in the next 12 month, according to chief commercial officer Peter Tuggey.

UK-based AeroMobile is currently fully operational with Emirates, which is carrying out a fleet fit. It is also being trialled by Malaysia Airlines, and Qantas, V Australia and Saudi Arabian Airlines have said they will implement the service.

AeroMobile partner Panasonic revealed here earlier this week that AeroMobile’s eXphone offering had been selected alongside the eXconnect satellite broadband service by the five launch airlines.

“In addition to those five we expect to see an Asian carrier rolling out soon on its Boeing 777s and a European airline putting us into its fleet as part of an IFE deployment,” says Tuggey. “We also have a new Middle East customer in prospect. Contracts have been signed with two of these airlines, and we also have tenders out to a further four operators.”

Early results from the Malaysia trial suggest that the carrier could soon move to adopt the service full-time. It is currently available on a single Boeing 777-200ER operating to Europe, Australia and the Asian region, including China and Japan. AeroMobile says that on some flights more than 40 per cent of passengers have logged on, with data traffic exceeding 2Mb, the equivalent of 40 Blackberry users sending and receiving email.

Malaysian mobile phone operator Maxis Communications is offering its subscribers an introductory rate of just £0.19 per text message, while receiving text messages is free.

“High awareness amongst passengers, competitive pricing and a reliable platform has seen our service reach new heights with Malaysia Airlines,” comments AeroMobile chief executive Bjorn-Taale Sandberg. “Customer feedback has been very positive. The imaginative pricing has really driven up usage. As we expected, data and text usage has been heavy, demonstrating clear passenger demand.”

If the airline does decide on a full implementation, it is well placed to offer even more bandwidth than the 64kbit/sec capacity of the Inmarsat Swift 64 satellite avionics on the 777-200. Manufactured by Honeywell and installed across the fleet, the system is capable of being upgraded to the 432kbit/sec SwiftBroadband service that Inmarsat made available worldwide earlier this year. 

In Hamburg AeroMobile is spotlighting a range of value-added services designed to exploit the connectivity capability that it provides. This week it announced a facility that will allow cabin staff to check credit cards in-flight. “Onboard duty-free sales are very vulnerable to card fraud because the airlines can’t access payment networks to authorise the transactions,” says Peter Tuggey. “We can offer a solution by allowing airlines to make secure transactions through our system. Cabin crew will be able to use the handheld credit-card machines commonly found in restaurants on the ground.”

AeroMobile plans to trial the system with existing customers and is presenting it to duty-free providers. “Not only will it protect airlines and duty-free providers from fraud losses, but it will also encourage them to offer more expensive goods because they will have a much higher probability of being paid,” says Tuggey.
 
Also in the new suite of services is a mobile-friendly Internet portal designed to deliver destination information to passenger handsets. A WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) Web page provides weather forecasts, currency exchange rates and other information.

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