The era of the Airfone air-to-ground radiotelephone system comes to an end on December 31 when Aircell, the new owner of the Airfone network, plans to shut the service down. Aircell purchased the Airfone network from LiveTV earlier this year and will use the Airfone frequencies to expand and meet growing demand for its Gogo and Gogo Biz airborne broadband Internet services. The Airfone frequencies are adjacent to those used by the Gogo service.
Aircell recently completed its acquisition of Airfone from LiveTV. The agreement includes LiveTV’s 1-MHz air-to-ground spectrum license, as well as the Airfone in-flight communications service, network infrastructure and back-office operational assets. To expand capabilities, Aircell’s Gogo in-flight Internet service will branch into Airfone’s frequencies, which are adjacent to those currently used by Gogo and Gogo Biz. To accommodate this expansion, the Airfone service will be permanently decommissioned on December 31.
“Can you hear me now?” might soon become as familiar a refrain to airborne satcom users as it is to those earthbound customers who use Verizon. The company is now a service provider for the Iridium satcom program. The arrangement, said Iridium, means Verizon Airfone operators and their passengers will be able to make calls regardless of where the aircraft is flying.
Gulfstream has selected AirCell’s Axxess cabin communications system as standard equipment aboard its line of large-cabin business jets spanning the G300 through G550.
It’s not exactly a call from the governor, but it still qualifies as a reprieve of sorts. Verizon Airfone has sent letters to customers informing them that the MagnaStar air-to-ground phone service will stay on the air at least until the end of next year.
Verizon Airfone has sent letters to customers informing them that the MagnaStar air-to-ground phone service will stay on the air until at least the end of next year. The service extension gives business aircraft operators flying with MagnaStar gear an extra year to explore alternatives, which for many will likely involve upgrading to Iridium or Inmarsat satcom equipment.
AirCell is moving forward with plans for a nationwide network of about 200 special ground stations to support in-flight broadband services. The Louisville, Colo. company is paying $31.319 million for a frequency-spectrum license after beating out Verizon Airfone and others in an FCC auction that concluded on June 5.
Verizon Airfone notified customers on July 7 it has "determined to exit the air-to-ground business" and will shut down Airfone on December 4. Teledyne Controls sold 4,100 MagnaStar systems, which use the Airfone network, and will continue to support the systems indefinitely, said a Teledyne Controls spokesman.
It didn’t take long for Iridium resellers to start targeting MagnaStar customers after service provider Verizon Airfone announced plans to exit the general aviation business. AirCell has introduced Axxess EZ, a two-channel Iridium satcom system that is intended as a direct replacement for the old MagnaStar phones.
Last Thursday Verizon Airfone notified customers that it will continue to provide MagnaStar users with air-to-ground communications “through at least December 31, 2007.” This action reverses a Verizon announcement this summer that it would exit the air-to-ground phone business in December, leaving some 4,100 Teledyne Control MagnaStar operators that use the Airfone network weighing options for other service providers.
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