du trialling inflight mobile with OnAir

du testing onboard mobile phone calls with service provider OnAir, to give du customers widest choice for inflight calls

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By  Mark Sutton Published  March 27, 2008

du has announced that is has begun testing inflight mobile services with provider OnAir. The UAE telecom operator has already completed trials with inflight service provider AeroMobile, which provides the equipment for Emirates inflight mobile service that was launched last week.

Testing with OnAir will ensure that du mobile services have compatibility with the two leading providers of inflgiht mobile services. Once testing is complete, du international roaming subscribers will be able to use voice, SMS and email services on aircraft equipped with OnAir infrastructure.

OnAir currently has agreements in place with Air France, BMI, TAP, Royal Jordanian, Kingfisher Airlines, Shenzhen Airlines Air Asia and Air Asia X.

Benoit Debains, CEO of OnAir, said: "In the Middle East, we have announced a deal with Royal Jordanian Airlines and we expect to announce more customers in the coming weeks, and this roaming agreement with du means we now have roaming agreements with over 50% of the mobile phone operators in the region as well."

Calls will be charged at du's standard international roaming rate, although in-air support will necessarily fall to the airlines to provide.

Andrew Grenville, EVP of International & Wholesale for du said that services are initially being developed for the benefit of du customers rather than as an additional revenue stream.

"This agreement is no different to other roaming relationships we have, we are not looking to make a lot of money from it, more we are offering convenience to our customers," said Grenville.

"Because it is a new service, it is quite hard to predict take up. People have been able to make calls inflight for some time, but the take up of that has been steady rather than spectacular; but it will be very convenient to make a call, or more likely an SMS inflight," he added.

Around half of all respondents to an online survey on arabianbusiness.com last week said they were not in favour of mobile phone calls on flights, although only 20% of respondents to a similar survey by YouGov Siraj felt the same. Grenville said it will fall to the airlines to decide on how phones can be used onboard.

"The airline needs to put in appropriate controls, we don't want to disturb the majority if the minority want to make calls, but at the same time, especially business travellers may well want to make calls," he said.

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