The service acts like a global GSM roaming service, routeing all calls and texts to your smartphone number via a satellite connection.
All passengers need do is download and install an app to enable the service. They then switch their phone to inflight mode and enable a Wi-Fi connection to the onboard Satcom Direct SDR router, which requires a software update for the new service to work.
Formerly known as AeroV+, the new brand better reflects the functionality of the system.
Calls to and from the ground are treated as VOIP calls via the satcom connection.
All outgoing calls will correctly show your number as the originator, which increases the chance of it being answered. Incoming calls also correctly display the number of the person calling you.
Chris Moore, Satcom Direct’s Chief Commercial Officer, said that the system will work with ViaSat Ku-band systems and Inmarsat SwiftBroadband (SBB). ViaSat can support up to two voice calls concurrently, while SBB can support up to four.
“The call quality is excellent,” said Moore. “Before this you would have needed the phone number of the aircraft and know that the person you are calling is actually onboard.
“And with outgoing calls there is no “+87” or other strange number displayed when you call, so your recipient is more likely to answer it.”
The Apple iOS app is ready and Android is coming soon. A Windows Phone app is also in the pipeline and Blackberry compatibility is being looked at.
Satcom Direct says it is the only company that provides this service globally without any change of infrastructure on the aircraft. It doesn’t involve a costly picocell and there is no need to shut the system down over some countries, such as India and China due to a lack of a roaming agreement.
Users pay per minute or per text. Satcom Direct can also bill the aircraft owner, and give a full breakdown of all call costs if required. It says the service has been trialled around the world with more than 10 different customers.
Moore said that putting a picocell on board and aircraft can cost around $250,000 on top of a satellite system. On a BBJ it is nearer a $1 million.
But the cost of entry for a system with GlobalVT is less than $100,000 and its SDR Router already has STCs available on a wide range of aircraft types.