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October 29, 2010

Brazil's Tam Offers Onair Inflight Connectivity Service to Passengers

By Narayan Bhat, TMCnet Contributor

Connectivity solutions vendor OnAir has landed a deal from Brazilian airliner TAM Airlines to provide mobile communication services to passengers on board.

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OnAir, a joint initiative between IT solutions vendor SITA and Airbus, deploys the solution as part of its partnership agreement with Inmarsat SwiftBroadband.

The system that OnAir is deploying enables passengers to make and receive phone calls, send and receive text messages and access the Internet through GPRS networks from their own GSM handsets.

In a press release issued Thursday, TAM Airlines stated that it has already installed the system onboard an Airbus A321 equipped with 220 seats and would equip more aircrafts on domestic routes in 2011.

A member of Star Alliance, TAM Airlines has Brazilian domestic market share of about 42 percent, and company flies to 44 destinations in Brazil.

"The demand of an onboard cellular was detected on researches with our passengers who wish to be connected to work, family and friends while traveling, "said TAM Airlines' Marketing Director Manoela Amaro.

OnAir says the system prevents interference between mobile phone signals, mobile infrastructures on the ground and the aircraft's commands. If necessary, the OnAir system can be turned off by the aircraft's crew at any time.

Eeven if some passengers had left the devices on during landing and takeoff, they cannot interfere with the aircraft's systems, the company noted.

"The service meets customers' needs as they travel with TAM to and from Brazil's fast-growing markets," said OnAir CEO Ian Dawkins.

 TAM's service allows as many as eight passengers to make and receive calls simultaneously on a flight with no limits on data and text messaging. Mobile phones will work in exactly the same way as in international roaming and can be activated as soon as the aircraft reaches an altitude of 4,000 meters (13 thousand feet).

Passengers can use their smartphones onboard to access e-mails or surf the Internet and usage will be charged directly by the mobile network provider to the passenger's phone bill at rates set by his or her usual provider.


Narayan Bhat is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Narayan’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Tammy Wolf