Yes to in-flight mobiles

By Fred Attewill, Metro

Last updated at 09:55 27 March 2008

Mobile phones

That important business call won't have to wait until landing

Air passengers could soon be hearing their fellow fliers uttering the (undoubtedly dreaded) words 'I'm on the plane' into their mobile phones.

British airlines yesterday got the go-ahead from communications watchdog Ofcom to let people use mobiles on flights within the EU, after allocating radio frequencies for the proposal.

It means that in-flight mobile use could be a reality within months, subject to safety authorities agreeing.

The proposal is yet to be cleared by the European Aviation Safety Agency and the Civil Aviation Authority.

An Ofcom spokeswoman said: 'If such approval has been secured, it will be a matter for individual airlines to judge whether there is consumer demand for these services.'


It is thought that phones will be permitted on planes flying at a minimum height of 3,000m (10,000ft) via an onboard 'base station' to which passengers' handsets connect.

The system would be switched off during take-off and landing to prevent interference with other terrestrial mobile networks. Calls would be routed via a satellite link and passengers would be billed via their own mobile phone companies, using roaming agreements similar to those when travelling abroad.

However, the prospect of mobiles on planes has horrified some passengers. British Airways said the response of its customers to a survey on the plan had been mixed.

'There's a vast difference between a business class flight to Paris at 7am and an overnight flight to a holiday destination like Miami,' a BA spokeswoman said. 'Some people would think there's nothing more annoying than having a phone ringing on a plane at any time of the night.'

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