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Airphone SMS

Stay in touch for less.
  [vote for,


If you have ever been trapped on a long intercontinental flight, you'll know the true meaning of boredom. Like many business people, I have become used to / dependent on / addicted to constant communication - by mobile phone, email, messaging, voicemail, etc. I'd truly love to remain in touch when in the air, but the cost of airphones/faxes is prohibitive.


The problem is that voice, fax and email are bandwidth hogs. The infrastructure capital cost associated with making a call from 35,000' above Alaska is immense. The paradox is: because so few people use it, each must pay more, so it is all the more expensive.


Instead, we could use the Short Messaging System (SMS) standard. Imagine being able to send and receive SMS's on board a plane for less than a dollar, because it would use existing infrastructure (certified, built paid for) but only a fraction of the band-width.

You could keep in touch with the office, reschedule a pickup, be notified of the birth of a neice or say goodbye to a loved one if your plane is hijacked.

You could opt to send only, or send and receive. Once received, you could forward important messages to your handphone. An unobtrusive icon blinking in the corner of your seat-back TV screen would alert you of new incoming messages.

FloridaManatee, Feb 06 2003

an alternative for light aircraft http://www.iridium....ri_product-home.asp
pagers for one way text, phones for full communication anywhere on the globe. Normally I can't keep up with you technogeeks, but I used to sell this stuff. [rbl, Oct 04 2004]


       I think that if I was going to say goodbye to a loved one in a hijack situation then I would splash out on the airphone, to be honest.
sild, Feb 07 2003

       Interesting. I'd rather have a flight attendant bring me a printout of any incoming message on a silver dish, though. Kind of like getting a telegram.
pottedstu, Feb 07 2003

       Good idea. Text email and text browsing would be welcome, too.   

       pottedstu: Only in first class.   

       (stewardess clips Dimandja's ear for attempting to use cellphone while in flight)
st3f, Feb 07 2003

       // At 30,000 feet, your cellphone won't work anyway //   

       30,000 feet is a little over 5.6 staute miles, or just under 5 nautical miles. It depends on the type and design of the cell station (most aren't isotropic radiators) and the frequency; also the efficiency of your antenna. And the good news is that if you're next to a window, you've probably got line-of-sight, unless you're over the wing.   

       In a light aircraft (Something like a Cessna 152 with a high wing) which has eventually clawed its way up to 15,000 feet, you can still access GSM services. After all, even on a diagonal, they're about 3.5 miles away line-of-sight. The trouble is that most puddle jumpers won't go much higher. In a jet, with a metal skin, you're quite well shielded, but there's a reasonable chance of the system working. Most GSM and CDMA handsets should exhibit a reference sensetivity on test of at least -100 dBm and some of the Motorola units will go down to -112 dBm (sorry, consumer advice crept in there).   

       Extensive systematic testing of GSM handsets in both single slot and HSCSD modes in a light aircraft both on the ground and in the air has shown no evidence of any interference with the Comm radios, the ADF or the VOR receivers, or with the primary navigation system i.e. me.   

       If a plane has avionics that are going to go Tango Uniform when squeaked at by a poxy little half-watt earwarmer, when the local PAPI and PPI radar systems are banging out literally kilowatts of microwaves aimed straight at us, well, that's a plane I don't wish to fly on.   

       Almost every report of PEDs intefering with avionics are anecdotal and non-reproduceable.
8th of 7, Feb 07 2003

       8/7 all this assumes you are flying anywhere near a cell site, not likely anywhere over oceans or undeveloped countries (such as Canada).
rbl, Feb 07 2003

       [Rods], the older ETACS & similar systems had this problem, but GSM and W-CDMA (3G) are immune.   

       [rbl] Well, more deserving of pity than condemnation.....   

       [UB] I wonder how much of a rakeoff the airline gets from Airphones ?
8th of 7, Feb 07 2003

       //I wonder how much of a rakeoff the airline gets from Airphones //   

       I reckon they could skim quite a bit at a reasonable price below a buck a message. It's the volume that makes the economics work - a bit like analog cellphones when they first came out.   

       At first it was just traders and pimps that could afford them, but when prices finally fell to the levels where high-school kids could carry them, the whole thing took off.   

       //In a light aircraft (Something like a Cessna 152 with a high wing)//   

       I have an PPL and GA experience. While we pilots are terrified of the FAA/CAA and would never dare test the theory, I can tell you that cellphone coverage sucks at most _airports_ I land at, let alone at 15,000ft (BTW, that's a wee bit high for me - service ceiling on a Cessna 172N is 14,200ft and you'd be "torkingk lak diff" with oxygen canula up the nose).   

       Of course, if the engine's spluttering and the radios are out, I'd go ahead and try anything to call in a mayday:   

       "This is the FAA, all our lines are busy, please leave a message" <beep>   

       "MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY, Skyhawk November seven two niner zulu romeo with engine out, 45 miles east nor east of Oahu, at seven thousand feet, planning to..."   

       <beeeep> "I'm sorry, your message exceeds the time limit. Press 1 to replay your message, Press 2 to re-record, press..."
FloridaManatee, Feb 09 2003

       I entirely agree about the 172's "rated" ceiling, however the one we had that day had just had a new engine, the tanks weren't that full, and the air was cold and dense; we had set QFE carefully too, and we're fairly sure that we did top out at just over 15,000. It was, however, struggling - the mixture was leaned way out and the controls felt quite strange..... We were less bothered by the altitude than we thought we would be, but there was some vicious ear-popping as we skimmed back down to 5000 feet.   

       Sometimes you just have to go for it ....
8th of 7, Feb 10 2003

       //Sometimes you just have to go for it ....//   

       I really hate altitude.   

       Hate is a very strong word. My views are based on experiences of long cross countries over the mountains mixed with jet-lag, and a night VFR landing. Trouble is you feel great when you take off at sea level, blood saturated with O2, wide awake (dinner time at home). Landing deverves to be written up in an "I learned about flying from that" article. Then you take off next day from a mountain strip in the desert at high noon, near gross on fuel, low on O2, sweaty hand slipping off the yoke, and praying for a thermal before the ridge.   

       The last thing I'd want is a phone call or an SMS at that point.   

       However, 35,000 feet over tajikistan in super-economy after 6 with no cable TV and it's a different story.
FloridaManatee, Feb 10 2003

       //Grab this one on the way to the airport //   

       I was wishing for a 50 cent email (SMS), not a $1,500 satellite phone. Glad to see the economy is still booming where ever you are!
FloridaManatee, Feb 10 2003

       Just found your Airphone SMS idea while looking for evidence to break a patent application!   

       Unfortunately, this idea was patented in 1998 by BT which is preventing my company from being able to implement it despite lots of interest from service providers and phone operators.   

       I don't suppose you published this idea anywhere pre-1998 did you?!
garethhartwell, Apr 11 2003

       Afraid not, Feb 6th it popped into my head.   

       There's often a way to skirt around patents. Otherwise the Wright Brothers' wing-warping patent would have been a real bummer.
FloridaManatee, Apr 11 2003


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