In-flight mobile calls get Ofcom go-ahead

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In-flight mobile calls get Ofcom go-ahead

John-Paul Kamath

Ofcom has confirmed plans to allow passengers to use mobile phones on UK-registered aircraft.

The plans, agreed jointly with other EU countries, will enable mobile phone use in European airspace. They follow an Ofcom consultation published in October 2007.

Airlines will be able to install mobile phone base stations on aircraft when they have secured approval by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in the UK.

The system will connect passengers' own mobile phone handsets to an on-board GSM base station. The phone and base station must be switched off during take-off and landing to ensure they do not interfere with mobile networks on the ground.

The handsets will 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. Billing will operate 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.

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