New plan allows mobiles on planesOfcom gives OK to passengers using own phones

27 March 2008

A mobile phone.

Haters of mobile phones could soon be able to add 'I'm on the plane' to 'I'm on the train' as their least-favourite overheard phrase following a new ruling.

Communications regulator Ofcom said plans were now in place to allow passengers on UK-registered aircraft to use their own mobiles while in flight in European airspace.

For some time, some airlines have offered passengers in-flight telephone services via the airline's own network.

Own mobiles

Ofcom said that the new arrangement will involve passengers' own mobiles connecting to an on-board base station. Both of these must be switched off during take-off and landing to ensure they do not interfere with mobile networks on the ground.

Once the aircraft reaches a minimum height of 9,840ft (3,000m), the system may be switched on by the cabin crew. Mobile users will then be able to use the aircraft's network service to make and receive calls which will be routed via a satellite link to the network on the ground. Calls will be billed through passengers' normal service providers.

Ofcom said the new arrangement will be subject to approval by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and by the UK's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Safety

The decision has been developed jointly with other EU countries and follows an Ofcom consultation on the proposals published in October 2007.

Ofcom said yesterday: 'The safety of passengers is paramount and mobile systems on aircraft will only be installed when they have secured approval by EASA and the CAA.

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

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