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Coming Soon: In-Flight VoIP Calling

Like it or not, airline passengers in U.S. skies are likely to be listening to their fellow passengers talking on phones in a year or so. An FCC frequency auction underway this week will likely pave the way for VoIP calls in-flight.

Nine companies ranging from Verizon Communications' Airfone to JetBlue Airways are bidding for the frequencies. Airfone already offers phone service on many flights, but its high cost has limited its use. JetBlue has declined to say what its LiveTV LCC unit would do with a winning frequency.

Although many frequent flyers and airline attendants favor a ban on the phone chatter, Connexion by Boeing, whose Internet service is already offered on nearly 200 international flights a day, notes that there have been no complaints of in-cabin incidents about the technology. The Connexion service is regularly used by passengers to make VoIP calls.

Connexion officials look the U.S. air-to-ground (ATG) frequency services as potentially complimentary to Boeing's satellite-based service.

"An ATG provider and Connexion by Boeing could work together to provide added value to airlines and their passengers by providing a common look and feel to the Web portal, billing, operational applications, etc." said Terrance Scott, a Connexion spokesman, in an e-mail. "That makes such services more broadly available to the traveling public."

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