Gogo has been offering in-flight WiFi service on thousands of airplanes for years. Now the company is introducing a new service that will eventually let you make phone calls and send text messages using your smartphone while you’re in the air.
I wonder if this will prompt airlines to follow the example of Amtrak, and introduce a “quiet car” section.
CNET reports the new Gogo talk and text service will begin rolling out in early 2014. Pricing hasn’t yet been determined.
While air passengers can use wireless devices throughout a flight now (as long as they’re flying on an airline that meets FAA guidelines), the FAA still insists phones should be used in “airplane mode,” which means passengers can’t make calls or send messages over a cellular network.
Gogo’s solution is to connect the company’s in-flight WiFi network to towers on the ground so that phone calls and SMS messages are routed through the airplane’s WiFi.
According to CNET, text messaging already works pretty well while voice quality can vary depending on the strength of your in-flight WiFi signal.
Gogo will support Android and iPhone users at launch, with possible support for other mobile platforms to follow.
I have been using Skype and/or Google Voice on flights (albeit quietly, usually to listen in on conference calls–certainly not yaking at the top of my voice about some banal experience) since Gogo first rolled out. I use a headset that has built in background noise canceling, and the call quality is usually pretty good, although there is enough background noise on a flight that being on mute when not speaking is helpful.
I asked my seat mates before and after, and nobody voiced any objections or complaints. One didn’t even notice I was talking on the phone (it was your typical conference call with a dozen or so people on it–while I did present some stuff for about 10 minutes, apparently I didn’t need to do it at the top of my voice).
So the key to this not being a major problem rests on the manners and discretion of those who absolutely need to be on a call during a flight. I am usually quite happy to turn off the phone and enjoy some uninterrupted time.
It comes down to manners, not abusing those around you, and doing everything you can to avoid making yourself a nuisance. If people are considerate and polite, this should not be problem.
The problem is that there will always be someone who feels obliged to immediately call everyone they know and in an excited and loud voice announce “Guess where I am calling you from? I am on an airplane! Yes, a &*%()$#ing airplane. Can you believe that? ” and then drone on endlessly about having to wait in line to get on the flight, and having to wait in line to get past security, etc.
Hopefully, the flight attendants will do a good job addressing those circumstances where someone abuses the technology.
Or if you are paying for the data access you can use apps like Whatsapp or Google Voice.
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