News UK readied for on-board mobile phone phase-in

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UK readied for on-board mobile phone phase-in

Mobile phone usage during flights could soon be a reality for UK air passengers.

Mobile phone usage during flights could soon be a reality for UK air passengers, as communications regulator Ofcom gives the green light for British aircraft to install the necessary systems.

The consent of European regulators must still be secured, and the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority will also be required to lay down industry rules, but a consensus already looks to be taking shape.

Looking to enable texting and calls from mobiles once planes hit 10,000 feet, BMI and Ryanair have already welcomed the move and are planning to install on-board picocell base stations which will pick up links to mobile operators via satellite.

In what could herald a phasing out of existing airline-provided on-board call facilities, passengers using their own handsets would be allowed to make calls and would be billed by their own providers at a roaming rate.

Ofcom’s green light comes after Middle Eastern carrier Emirates has successfully trialled SMS and even mobile calls on some of its aircraft, while Australian flag carrier Qantas has also trialled SMS and plans to spread the service across its flights later this year.

The AeroMobile system trialled by Emirates operates more stringently than the standards proposed by Ofcom, only activating once the aircraft reaches 20,000 feet.

Meanwhile all trials and proposals to date require passengers to refrain from mobile usage during take-off and landing, at least guaranteeing a moment of peace to passengers fearing an onslaught of on-board calls once the systems are phased in.

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