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Israel Introduces In-Flight Cell-Phone Usage

March 2, 2005
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“Please turn off all cellular phones before takeoff” is an announcement air travelers have gotten used to hearing. Thanks to new Israeli technology, though, the in-flight cellular-phone ban may become a thing of the past.

Qualcomm Israel, a subsidiary of the United States-based Qualcomm, has developed technology that would allow for clear, safe cellular phone calls to be made while in an airplane. Last summer, the company carried out tests, together with American Airlines, to demonstrate the effectiveness of the satellite-based, air-to-ground cellular service, Israel21c.org reported.

The successful test demonstrated in-cabin voice communications using commercially available CDMA mobile phones and an in-flight third-generation (3G) “picocell” network. “During the flight, we were able to support about 10 calls, as well as SMS text messages,” Qualcomm Israel’s Boaz Bryger told Israel21c. “We tried every combination—incoming and outgoing, from mobile to mobile, land to mobile, etc…The voice quality was good, and the system was stable.” Bryger directs engineering at the company’s Israel headquarters and headed the engineering team that was in charge of the project.

Qualcomm’s picocell technology consists of a laptop computer-sized Base Station System, which acts as a cellular antenna within the aircraft. The picocell then beams the voice data via satellite to the ground networks.

“The key attribute of the new reference design is the improved size, which influences the cost,” explained Bryger. “The other key attribute is that the cellular infrastructure is implemented using Internet technology…What we’ve developed is an IP-based wireless access network.”

According to USA Today, developers believe that travelers will use their cell phones while in the air if they are charged less than a dollar a minute. Customers would pay by entering their credit-card number upon placing a call, or by having the charges added to their monthly cell-phone bill.

For further information, please contact

Qualcomm Israel, Omega Center,

MATAM Post Office, Haifa 31905, Israel;

Tel: 972-4-850-6506; FAX: 972-4-850-6507;

E-mail: qinfo@qualcomm.com; Web site:



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