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FLIGHTMARE! Inflight cell calling debuts, dealing heavy blow to quality of life

HELLO! Yes! I'm on the PLANE!

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Flying cattle class on most carriers is usually an unpleasant business but it's about to get a lot worse thanks to Gogo, which has figured out a way to let passengers make calls and texts from their mobiles while in flight.

Gogo already provides in-flight Wi-Fi for flights using a network of ground stations that an aircraft can use to get reasonable data transmission rates while flying overhead. The company has also recently introduced Gogo GTO (ground to orbit), which enables satellite linkups as well.

Now the company has developed a free application for Android and iPhone users to install on smartphones that will let people make calls and send and receive text messages. Calls are routed through the plane's Wi-Fi system and then routed to the smartphone's service provider.

"Gogo Text & Talk is just one more way Gogo is keeping airline passengers connected to their lives on the ground," said Ash ElDifrawi, Gogo's chief marketing officer. "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."

El Reg is willing to bet that a lot of passengers aren't wild about the prospect of having some loud git shouting down their mobile phone for hours at a time. Mobile phones on public transport can be irritating at the best of times but on a flight, crammed into a seat that is seemingly built for a midget, and where you're charged extra for such luxuries as food, it could be the last straw.

"The great part about this technology is that it doesn't require us to install anything new to an aircraft and we can bundle it with or without connectivity," said ElDifrawi. "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."

That said airlines and mobile phone carriers are sure to love the system as a new profit center. Given the exorbitant charges Gogo and carriers are asking for in-flight Wi-Fi, then the only comfort some passengers will be able to take from this technology is the thought of caller's phone bill going stratospheric. ®

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