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In-flight mobiles coming to Europe

In-flight mobiles coming to Europe

In-flight mobile use relies on the fitting of an on-board base station - but doesn't usually require dismantling the entire aircraft.

If you treasure your flight time as a haven away from obnoxious ringtones and Dom Joly-esque one-sided conversations, you're not going to like the news that the European Union is due to lift the ban on in-flight use of mobile phones.

Having carried out extensive studies over a six month period, the EU has decided that a mobile connecting to a miniature base station located within the aircraft does not transmit at anything like the power levels required to cause important instrumentation to go screwy. Accordingly, it's happy to give its approval for Europe-wide rollout of in-flight mobile telephony.

The onboard base station won't be activated until the craft reaches approximately 10,000 feet – so no calls during takeoff or landing. Additionally, the captain will have the authority to deactivate the system should they see fit – although whether this is an option available for shutting up terminal yakkers remains to be seen.

Anyone who's found themselves urgently needing to make a call while cruising at 30,000 feet will be familiar with the on-board handsets currently offered by major airlines – you swipe your credit card through the handset and then proceed to make a call at per-minute pricing which makes hotel call rates look positively reasonable. Although the in-flight mobile base station means that you get to use your own handset, the pricing will still be set by the airline – although the EU is urging them to keep pricing at a sane level.

Because the technology requires hardware to be added to aeroplanes before punters can make in-flight calls, it's likely to be a fairly slow rollout. Each installation will need to get the thumbs up from the European Aviation Safety Agency before it'll be allowed to fly. Currently, the only European airlines talking about implementing the technology are Air France and Ryanair, both of whom are ready to submit their applications and start generating that little bit extra money from their customers.

Do you look forward to the day when you can make and receive calls in the air, or are you waiting on pricing information before you put the battery back in your handset? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

17 Comments

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Flibblebot 9th April 2008, 12:45 Quote
Noooooooo!

It's bad enough on a train, but at least you have the option to go to a different carriage. On a plane, you're stuck where you're sitting.

Expect plane rage incidents to increase...:(
sotu1 9th April 2008, 13:06 Quote
short journey flights less than 2 hours, i can tolerate. note i can tolerate it, not want it. i don't like the idea of sitting next to someone who won't shut up for hours on end.
MrWillyWonka 9th April 2008, 13:09 Quote
To be honest I don't expect the prices to be cheap and as a result the use of phones will probably be fairly limited. Perhaps the rich people will be able to afford talking for hours but then they will probably be in first class which I cannot afford, yay.

Mind you I can just turn my hearing aid off
Jordan Wise 9th April 2008, 13:10 Quote
it always amazed me how victims of 9/11 managed to ring their relatives in flight years before this stuff came along...
Hamish 9th April 2008, 13:13 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jordan Wise
it always amazed me how victims of 9/11 managed to ring their relatives in flight years before this stuff came along...
because they were over population centres with mobile coverage anyway

this technology will let you make calls from the middle of the atlantic etc :p
MrWillyWonka 9th April 2008, 13:13 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jordan Wise
it always amazed me how victims of 9/11 managed to ring their relatives in flight years before this stuff came along...

That was because the aircraft was flying low over land which means one could get a signal. This technology is different where one can get a signal at 30,000ft using an onboard transceiver, one wouldn't be able to get a signal to a land-based base station when at 30,000ft or over the ocean.

EDIT: Damn beaten by Hamish.
Jordan Wise 9th April 2008, 13:16 Quote
ahhhhh
mclean007 9th April 2008, 14:29 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hamish
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jordan Wise
it always amazed me how victims of 9/11 managed to ring their relatives in flight years before this stuff came along...
this technology will let you make calls from the middle of the atlantic etc :p
The technology will, but the EU's actions won't - this is to be used in EU airspace only at present, which I guess limits the extent to which your sleep will be disturbed on long-haul. I would expect that, if it is ever rolled out on long-haul, it will be switched off when the lights are dimmed for sleeping time.

You can bet that Ryanair will rinse people for the absolute last possible drop of cash, much as with every other 'extra' like, for example, checking a bag onto the aircraft, having a glass of water in-flight, or having the audacity to want to pay for your flights by credit card. £3 per minute here we come!
Redbeaver 9th April 2008, 16:17 Quote
2 things (both already mentioned)
1. security and safety. will the signal disturb any of the plane's equipment? will having access to more comm networks become a hazard for flight security?
2. comfortability. flights usually covers long trips. in long trips people like to rest/undisturbed/sleep. people shouting while talking on the phone irks me enough even in outdoor. then u wanna bring that indoor, and even more so, into a confined space of a plane? on a bus u can move around, on trains u can walk around, wadaya gonna do on an airplane? insane.


just my $2.
Javerh 9th April 2008, 16:52 Quote
If I remember right some plane company made this available in the Arab Emirates last year. The biggest problem with allowing phone-calls from a plane were that they would confuse land-based mobile cells. It had something to do with a phone signal propagating farther from a flying plane than a signal from the ground. Thus a single signal could hijack multiple mobile identities in the network.
johnnyboy700 9th April 2008, 18:53 Quote
Bloody hell, can't folk learn to do without their bloody phones for even just a couple of hours? Remember that recent survey that said there was a growing number of the population that suffers from phone fear - i.e. they start to panic when they are out of mobile contact for even a few minutes?
Oh well there goes the last refuge from irritating twats twittering away about either the most inane shite imaginable or power business types banging on about fiscal policies and 10 year projections whilst you're trying to chill out on a flight. Still I'd imagine the worst flights would be the ones to and from lager lout destinations. Its bad enough on a train when you get folk who seem to find it necessary to talk long and loud about what seems to be their entire life history but it'll be worse on a plane.

I agree with the above comment about seeing a potential rise in air rage incidents, I find being cooped up in a big metal tube with the general public and nowhere to go bad enough (why do the general public seems to consist of nothing but idiots and retards?) but add in the "Hi, what?, No, I'm on a plane" line of conversation and it will be bordering on unbearable. Time to buy one of those gadgets I've heard about that blocks a mobile signal - unless of course that interferes with the aircraft systems as well.
mclean007 9th April 2008, 18:59 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by johnnyboy700
Time to buy one of those gadgets I've heard about that blocks a mobile signal - unless of course that interferes with the aircraft systems as well.
Yeah, good luck getting on a plane with a radio jammer. Something that is specifically designed to obstruct wireless communications is unlikely to be welcome in a machine that relies on GPS, ILS, radar, radio, and countless other wireless technologies for its functionality and safety! :doh:
johnnyboy700 9th April 2008, 19:07 Quote
Maybe I'll just hit them over the head with it rather than turn it on!
r4tch3t 9th April 2008, 22:54 Quote
Hopefully they have decibel meters in the seat so that if someone's talking too loud they get disconnected. I don't mind people talking on their phones on flights, people talk to each other, but with phones people tend to start raising their voice and shout.
johnnyboy700 10th April 2008, 08:57 Quote
Hey, I've just thought of the ideal gadget that will block a mobile conversation that you can take on a flight, a large mail sack! Any mobile user annoys you with their inane babble just stick the bag over their head and pull the draw strings tight - job done.
Flibblebot 10th April 2008, 11:00 Quote
Even better, line it with paxmate so you won't be able to hear them!
Cavedweller 10th April 2008, 12:25 Quote
10/10 for the "Trigger Happy TV" reference!
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