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Connexion by Boeing has tested in-air cell connections routed via an IP network: The idea is that a passenger’s cell phone connects to an onboard gateway that accepts GSM and CDMA calls, converts the traffic to IP, and carries the data back and forth over Connexion’s satellite link. The traffic, when it reaches the ground, is then shunted back to the public telephone network.
Connexion wants to make this available to its airline customers in 2006. It’s a nice new revenue stream for them, a potentially affordable way to make calls in flight, and the beginning of a giant market for super-noise-cancelling headphones and sleep masks. Several other companies are testing similar systems for in-flight calling.