Phones on a Plane

Ofcom today confirmed plans to enable airlines to offer mobile communication services on UK-registered aircraft, if they wish to do so. This will be subject to approval by the relevant UK and European aviation authorities.
 
The decision has been developed jointly with other EU countries and will enable use in European airspace. It follows an Ofcom consultation on the proposals published in October 2007.

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 in the UK. If such approval has been secured it will be a matter for individual airlines to judge whether there is consumer demand for these services.
Using mobiles on aircraft

The system works by passengers’ own mobile phone handsets 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 3,000 metres, the system may be switched on by the cabin crew. Mobile handsets 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.

Mobile phones will connect to the system for 2G (GSM) data, voice and text services. If the service is successful it could be extended to 3G and other services in future. Ofcom proposes to allow the use of these systems by amending the aircraft operators’ existing Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006 licences.

For a number of years some airlines have offered customers in-flight outbound telephone services via the airline’s own network.