The FAA’s recent easing of restrictions on the use of portable electronic devices did not cover inflight texting and wireless phone calls as those are still banned by FCC regulations. However, the Gogo service plans to get around that by using a plane’s existing WiFi network to deliver voice and text service to customers’ phones.
The company says that users will need to download an app (Gogo says it will work on both iOS and Android, and on both GSM and CDMA devices) that would effectively treat the plane’s Gogo system like a roaming cellular network.
“While we see this as more of a text messaging product for commercial airlines in the United States, the phone functionality is something that some international air carriers and our business aviation customers are asking for,” said Ash ElDifrawi, Gogo’s chief marketing officer in a statement. “We have already launched the service with some of our business aviation customers and we are talking with our commercial airline partners about launching the service for their passengers.”
No news yet on what the service will cost customers, but Gogo WiFi service generally starts at $14 for one day, so we’d assume text and talk would probably be an additional charge on top of that. It would also make sense for the company to allow frequent travelers to buy bulk blocks of time at a discounted rate like it does for WiFi service.
As for when you’ll start seeing this on planes, Gogo — whose WiFi can be found on jets in the United, US Airways, American, and Delta fleets, among others — says it will probably begin popping up in early 2014.