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Cost of calls from aircraft to plunge

MAKING calls from an aircraft will be tried out on a large scale in the Asia-Pacific next year and Inmarsat Plc, the world's biggest mobile satellite communications firm, expects the cost of such calls to drop dramatically.

The cost of making such calls during a flight will decline to US$5, or even US$2, a minute compared with the high costs several years ago, according to the United Kingdom-listed Inmarsat which provides voice and data services to clients on land, sea and in the air.

In the Asian region carriers like Shenzhen Airlines and Malaysia's Air Asia are testing such calls on some flights.

Inmarsat sees great potential for such calls on board flights and at sea and believes they will become a rapidly growing business for the firm, said Michael Butler, its president, in Shanghai yesterday.

Satellite communications can provide voice and broadband services in regions where mobile networks are not available, such as remote construction, mining, oil and gas sites. Butler said that Inmarsat can provide cost-efficient satellite communications which allow clients to access corporate information and business critical data anywhere and costs have dropped sharply. For example, Inmarsat's service on land costs US$5 for one megabyte of data against US$30 three or four years ago, Butler said.

In China, Inmarsat teamed up with its Beijing Marine Communication & Navigation Co to expand its business to clients, including media firms and telecommunication carriers like China Telecom.


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