New: SMS and email from the air

Some Qantas passengers will no longer be asked to turn off their phones or laptops before take-off.

In an Australian first, the airline will introduce in-flight email and SMS services onboard domestic flights by the end of 2008.

Nonetheless the service falls short of the fast, cheap and extensive connectivity available to travellers in overseas markets.

Qantas executive general manager John Borghetti announced that a fleet of B767-300 and A330-200 aircraft will be progressively fitted with email and SMS access.

Qantas, which has partnered with AeroMobile to develop the technology, says voice calls will not be included as part of the Qantas access, although the technology is enabled.

“Customers wanting to send or receive an SMS will require only a GSM phone and a global roaming account, while customers wanting to send or receive emails will need a GPRS enabled device like a BlackBerry or an appropriately equipped laptop,” he says.

The use of older GSM and GPRS networks has dashed hopes that Qantas may follow a US lead and introduce Wi-Fi or cheap broadband on flights. Tech watcher Alex Zaharov-Reutt from IT-Wire described the technology as a “very shamefully 20th century” service.

The cost may also be prohibitive due to global roaming and connection kit expenses.

“This means the service will likely be priced out of the range of most customers, only accessible to those who either have lots of money, or whose company has lots of money and is willing to pay in-flight SMS and email charges,” says Zaharov-Reutt.


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