AirCell was the high bidder in the Federal Communications Commission’s
just-concluded spectrum auction for air-to-ground broadband frequencies.
Once the formal FCC payment and application process is complete,
AirCell’s exclusive new license will allow the company to
provide wireless broadband services to airlines and business aircraft
in the United States.
Jack Blumenstein, President & CEO of AirCell, Inc., said,
“AirCell is delighted to have emerged as the high bidder
in the auction for an exclusive air-to-ground broadband license
in the U.S. It represents the last piece of a puzzle that we began
assembling many years ago. It’s very gratifying to know
that AirCell’s original vision for this market will culminate
in a service that will be of such great benefit to airlines, business
aviation and passengers. Business travelers will have a new productivity
tool and others will have the same convenient access to information
they now enjoy at home or work.”
He continued, “We’re excited that AirCell will be
the company that brings affordable, wireless broadband service
to airlines and passengers, and we look forward to completing
the balance of the FCC’s licensing process. AirCell has
more patents and experience applying advanced wireless technology
in the airborne environment than any organization in the world.
With our new broadband license in hand, AirCell will revolutionize
airborne communications in the United States.”
Targeted for commercial deployment in 2007, AirCell’s broadband
service will enable airline passengers to use their own Wi-Fi
devices such as laptops and PDA’s in a fully-integrated
wireless cabin over an affordable, broadband air-to-ground link.
Because the system will use commercially-available technology
and a direct air-to-ground link, its installation and operating
costs will be very affordable, enabling U.S. airlines to safely
provide the connectivity their passengers are demanding. The AirCell
network will initially cover the continental U.S. and will be
expandable to the rest of North America, including Canada, Mexico
and the Caribbean.
“As we move forward and complete the official licensing
process, AirCell will be accelerating its discussions with a number
of airlines, and we look forward to working with them to plan
for the introduction of broadband service,” said AirCell’s
AirCell will also initiate discussions with wireless carriers
to make it possible for their customers to seamlessly use their
wireless devices while in the air in the same way they now use
those devices on the ground. Further regulatory approvals will
be required to permit use of the cellular frequencies aboard aircraft.
In a post-auction restructuring to be formally completed in the
coming months, AirCell will add Ripplewood Holdings, LLC, as a
major new investor and recognize a significant new investment
by entities affiliated with Blumenstein/Thorne Information Investors,
a current AirCell shareholder.
In addition, Ron LeMay, an Industrial Partner at Ripplewood Holdings,
will become Chairman of the Board of AirCell, Inc. An experienced
global telecom executive, LeMay is the former President and Chief
Operating Officer of Sprint Corporation and CEO of Sprint PCS.
“Ripplewood is delighted to become a major investor and
shareholder in AirCell, and I look forward to my duties as Board
Chairman,” commented LeMay. “We’re also pleased
that the financial commitments from Ripplewood and AirCell’s
current investors will take us through broadband service launch
and well out into the future.”