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03 November 20140 Comments by Jon M

Aeromobile interview (part 2)

Aeromobile is British company that provides GSM mobile connectivity on commercial passenger flights using satellite technology. Their services allow you to make calls and texts whilst in flight and even use mobile data to connect to the internet.

Since 2008 over 24 million passengers have connected to the AeroMobile network in flight. Last week, we had chat with Jack Gordon from Aeromobile and you can read part 1 of our interview with him here.

The second half of our interview continues below:

What are the additional costs in providing this service compared to standard roaming and how soon will we be able to see pricing come down to more affordable levels?

The satellite cost is a significant part of the service cost structure. Whilst this has reduced over the last few years, we are not complacent. We want to ensure that we keep pace with the pricing expectations of potential users. We predict further reductions in satellite costs over the next few years and we will be working with the mobile operators to ensure that these cost reductions are passed onto passengers. We are constantly looking at how we can reduce roaming costs to make the use of the in flight connectivity system even more affordable and accessible for passengers.

That’s good to hear. Which network do you use to provide your infrastructure and why did you choose them?

AeroMobile is itself a registered mobile network operator and we use our own network to provide the service. Connected aircraft have specialized equipment installed inside the aircraft cabin, which provides a mobile phone signal to which the passengers’ phones attach.This means that passengers can switch on and connect to the AeroMobile network as if they were roaming abroad on the ground.

Can you weigh in with your personal opinion on the debate regarding annoying your fellow travellers by constantly being on the phone when flying?

The perception that voice calls in the cabin will be an annoyance for fellow travellers has been exaggerated. Statistics show approximately only 20 per cent of passengers use the service make voice calls in flight. What’s more, these calls last on average less than two minutes. Data is the most used service followed by SMS.

The AeroMobile service simply allows the option of connectivity to passengers, the final decision on available services still rests with the individual airline – and of course with the passenger themselves! Some airlines, such as Lufthansa and Aer Lingus, have made this choice and opted for a ‘silent’ offering of data and SMS only.

So it’s quite a flexible choice? But there is one thing we’re quite concerned about. What sort of data speeds (up and down) can customers expect on various routes?

The AeroMobile service operates over 2.75G EDGE – in layman’s terms this means that it can support SMS, voice and data usage. Most airlines have installed WiFi services for passengers who want a more heavy duty data capacity.

I guess it could be worse and at least it will presumable improve as technology gets better. What do you think the impact of 4G and the exponential rise of smartphones is going to be on data pricing and omnipresent high-speed mobile connectivity?

Today with the higher usage of 3G and 4G, we know that most operators are focused on helping their customers to roam in the most cost-conscious way possible. A few simple solutions being used are providing users with pricing information and notifying customers when they reach a particular spend level. Many of the key operators also have transparent, simple roaming packages to give their subscribers a confidence when roaming abroad.

Our statistics show iPhone, Samsung and Blackberry devices make the most connections to the AeroMobile network. Users of these devices expect connectivity and we don’t see why they should be any less connected simply because they at 30,000 feet!

And so what proportion of airlines and their fleets is your service currently available on?

The AeroMobile service is currently active on more than 260 aircraft across 13 major airlines – that’s over 500 flights every day.Airlines currently offering inflight connectivity are Emirates, Etihad, KLM, Air France, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways, Transaero, SAS, Singapore Airlines, EVA Air, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways and Aer Lingus, as well as VIP Carriers Comlux, Dubai Air Wing and Presidential Flight.

We are rapidly expanding thanks to the popularity of the service and future deals with Thai Airways, Garuda Indonesia and a Malaysian airline are in the pipeline.

How popular is your service amongst passengers right now and where do you see yourselves in five years?

We have seen strong growth in passenger take up of the service inflight. Active users of the AeroMobile service increased by over 100 per cent in the first half of 2014 compared to the same period in 2013,while SMS increased by 48 per cent,voice usage by 30 per cent and data by a whopping 313 per cent in the same period.

With new airline partners launching imminently, current airline partners rolling out new connected aircraft, and constant improvements to our roaming products and pricing, this is an exciting time for inflight connectivity! We are constantly looking for ways to improve our service, and reduce costs to the end customer. We are working hard to make inflight connectivity the norm for passengers on all flights.

Great! Thanks for spending the time to speak with us!

So what do you make of it? Would you pay to use your mobile phone on flights? What do you think about Aeromobile? And don’t forget to go back and read part 1 of this interview.

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