Verizon Airfone Takes Data to New Heights

OAK BROOK, Ill. -- Airline passengers and flight crews soon will be able to enjoy the benefits of high-speed data while they are in flight. They will be able to quickly send e-mails, download large files, get up-to-the-minute weather updates and transmit streaming videos of onboard security emergencies using services from selected providers over Verizon Airfone's in-flight communications network.

The company, a subsidiary of Verizon Communications, plans to upgrade its current voice and data network to a broadband transmission network that will provide the pipeline for a multitude of communications services to airlines and their passengers.

"We are aggressively working to expand our roster of airline clients by enhancing our network so it can carry an array of high-speed data services," said Bill Pallone, president of Verizon Airfone. "Upgrading our Airfone network will bring a whole new world of vital high-speed data capabilities to airline passengers, along with administrative and security services that will help flight crews operate more efficiently and cost effectively."

The FAA has recently certified a high-speed file server for Verizon's use on commercial aircraft. The first server is now installed aboard an Airbus A320 commercial aircraft. By August, Verizon Airfone will have servers installed in additional aircraft and will begin upgrading its entire in-flight network to provide advanced data services.

Future services that are expected to be offered through the upgraded Verizon Airfone network include:

  • High-speed Internet access: While in flight, passengers can send e-mails, instant messages and large files at speeds comparable to DSL (digital subscriber line) service on the ground.

  • News, entertainment and information: A variety of entertainment and news services can be provided to passengers through cached content on the file server. Information about connecting gates, terminal layouts and travel destinations can be continuously updated and refreshed.

  • Cash-less Cabin: Sales of beverages and duty-free merchandise can be conducted and validated electronically by flight attendants.

  • Airline administrative and operational communications: By using the Airfone network, flight crews can quickly communicate information about routine maintenance needs and passenger service issues to ground personnel so that issues are resolved more efficiently and effectively.

  • In-flight Weather Updates: Real-time weather information that extends beyond the scope of radar can be continuously communicated to flight crews, allowing them to better prepare for adverse weather conditions.

  • Security Services: A range of security services can be supported by the broadband network, including transmission of streaming video of cabin and cockpit emergencies to ground personnel.

"We can provide these capabilities without creating extra weight, power consumption or increased installation time on the aircraft," Pallone said. "We anticipate a great deal of interest in these new services from our current and future airline partners."

Verizon Airfone, a subsidiary of Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ), began offering commercial service in 1985, with the introduction of the first cordless air-to-ground telephone system. The first seatback telephone was installed by Airfone in 1987, and the company deployed a nationwide, end-to-end digital system starting in 1993. Currently, 62 percent of U.S.-based commercial passenger aircraft are installed with Airfone service. Airfone's airline customers include: Air Wisconsin Airlines; American Airlines; Continental Airlines; Delta Air Lines; Midwest Express Airlines; United Airlines; USAirways; AeroMexico; Air Canada; Air Nova; Bell Mobility; Mexicana Airlines; Air France, Alitalia; All Nippon Airways; British Airways; Cathay Pacific Airways; China Southern Airways; Crossair; Lufthansa; Thai Airways; Turkish Airlines; and Varig.