Although we'd always assumed that Ryanair would be the first to roll out Airbus' OnAir in-flight calling system, it looks like Air France is going to take the prize -- the airline is now rolling out Mobile On-Air 2.5G cell service on select international flights. Passengers on European-route Airbus A318s can now use their phones to send and receive texts, MMS, and email over the system when the new "no mobiles" light is switched off, and voice calling support will be rolled in the second half of the year-long trial. Phones are used just like on the ground, with a picocell on board the aircraft bouncing signals off a satellite, and billing is handled by customer's regular carrier, with rates "comparable" to regular international calling. All this, of course, while FAA twiddles its thumbs for the "foreseeable future." Oh well -- at least we've got in-flight WiFi to tide us over.
[Via The Unwired]