Passengers could soon be using their mobile phones make calls and send text messages while flying through European airspace, if U.K. telecoms regulator Ofcom’s proposals to launch such services are approved by European airlines authorities.
The proposed system utilizes an on-board base station in the plane which communicates with passengers’ handsets. The base station routes phone traffic to a satellite, which is in turn connected to mobile networks on the ground. Users will still be billed by their mobile operators in the usual way although it remains unclear how much in-flight calls will cost.
In the U.S., the use of cell phones aboard airborne planes is banned by the FCC for safety reasons, as they could purportedly interfere with onboard communication and navigation systems. The proposed system, however, is said to permit mobile calls without the risk of such interferences. Although I’m all in for in-flight services such as Wi-Fi (specially during long trips), I’m not too fond of the idea of sitting next to someone chatting away on his mobile phone all flight long. If the green light is given by European regulators, individual airlines would still need to decide if they want to implement the technology across their fleet though.