The days of the airplane being an escape from e-mail may be over. EMS Sky Connect at NBAA announced its new Forte AirMail service as a low-cost way to allow e-mail access by smartphones and PDAs in even light airplanes.
The 8-pound system taps into the Iridium satellite system’s “switched packet data” capability to allow worldwide Wi-Fi-enabled e-mail access for handheld devices. While your phone receives e-mail through the cellular network on the ground, you can close the airplane door and switch to Wi-Fi-mode on the same device and begin sending and receiving e-mail seamlessly, according to Steve Silverman, company general manager. The system can operate standalone or in conjunction with EMS Sky Connect’s other products for voice and text communication. A standalone system costs $25,995, plus installation, and includes the Wi-Fi interface, Iridium transceiver, and antenna. Those with the company’s voice system installed can add an AirMail system for $17,995.
Iridium charges access by the minute. The system can be set up to limit users’ ability to access the network in order to manage costs. Silverman noted that the company’s use of the Iridium signal for e-mail is a novel way to use the technology. While the data speed is fine for most e-mails and small attachments, larger attachments may take a while to download. For routine e-mails, though, Silverman said most users will not notice any speed differences compared to their office systems.