In-flight mobiles coming to Europe

April 9, 2008 // 12:39 p.m.

Tags: #aircraft #airline #call #cell #eu #mobile #phone #plane

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.

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