Gogo enables smartphone talk, text over inflight Wi-Fi

Gogo announced new technology that lets passengers uses its inflight Wi-Fi system to send text messages and make phone calls using their own smartphone.

Passengers can download the Gogo Text & Talk App from the Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) App Store or Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Play. "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. 

According to CNET, the app could also support Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone in the near future.

Gogo explained that its new app does not require the installation of picocells, which can be installed on planes to deliver similar services. Instead, users simply roam onto Gogo's inflight Wi-Fi system as if they were roaming onto a terrestrial cellular network.

"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."

Brad Jaehn, Gogo's vice president of product, was more specific, telling CNET that the service will launch on commercial flights in the first quarter of 2014. However, pricing is still up in the air as Gogo works on the business model.

Though Gogo announced the new app just days following the Federal Aviation Administration's lifting of its ban on the use of mobile devices during takeoff and landing, the company's service apparently will not enable people to talk and text using their smartphones during the early and latter parts of a flight. That is due to the fact that Gogo''s system is not designed to function below 10,000 feet, largely because it connects via cell towers on the ground.

For more:
- see this Gogo release
- see this CNET article

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