You might soon be allowed to make cell phone calls while flying, but prepare to pay extra for it.
Keeping customers connected to mobile networks in-flight would be a major opportunity for U.S. carriers — potentially worth $2.4 billion plus a year, according to Akshay Sharma, a wireless network analyst at Gartner.
Now that the federal government is considering an end to its in-flight phone call ban, these companies might finally have a chance to dip into untapped potential revenue.
But it will cost cell phone companies millions of dollars to install the proper equipment on planes, so analysts expect carriers to recoup those costs with a per-flight fee similar to how in-flight Wi-Fi is used today. Wireless carriers could also charge hefty per-minute voice fees and roaming charges could apply if your cell phone company’s network isn’t supported on your flight.
Related: FCC to consider allowing cell phone calls on flights
“It’s a huge coup for the telecom carriers; this opens up a massive market for them,” said Ari Zoldan, CEO of communication technology firm Quantum Networks.
Zoldan’s company would be among those retrofitting jets with satellite technology. To keep calls crisp and uninterrupted, the plane would need to be connected constantly, even as it travels at 39,000 feet going 550 miles per hour. That would mean installing a large, powerful, computer-like device that can transmit signals to satellites in space and antennae on the ground.
Installing that technology costs between $3 million and $4 million per plane, Zoldan said. listen.