No peace anywhere now then?

  Bingalau 17:55 19 Oct 2007

October 19, 2007

Ofcom considers mobile phone use on planes
UK airlines could give go-ahead in 2008
Paul Meller

Ofcom has proposed allowing British airlines to offer mobile phone services to passengers via onboard base stations.

The move is being considered by telecoms and air safety agencies throughout the European Union after the Electronic Communications Committee, a European agency, recently gave the go-ahead in principle. Ofcom is the first telecom regulator to support the idea publicly, but Air France is already looking into fitting one of its latest Airbus aircraft with the system with On Air, an offshoot of Airbus SAS.

While airlines have offered in-flight outbound telephone services through airline networks, the UK proposal will let passengers use their own handsets to make calls, Ofcom said. The service still requires approval by the Civil Aviation Authority, the UK's air transportation regulator.

The base station technology under consideration is a GSM 1800MHz pico-cell system that prevents direct connection of the mobile terminals onboard with mobile networks on the ground. The main problem when using mobile phones on aircraft is not interference with the plane's systems, but that it confuses mobile phone base stations on the ground below the plane.

Australia has already issued a licence to operate in-flight mobile services using the same technology and the Australian carrier Quantas is testing it on one of its Boeing aircraft, according to an official at the international airline association, IATA, which is monitoring development of the technology on behalf of the airlines. Within Europe, airlines considering offering mobile phone use as a service to passengers include Ryanair and TAP Air Portugal, as well as Air France. Beyond Europe, Emirates, AirAsia and Kingfisher airlines want to offer the service along with Quantas.

The US Federal Aviation Authority said earlier this month that it has no plans to allow mobile phones to be used on planes any time soon.

The earliest that services could be available from UK-registered airlines is 2008, subject to approval by the aviation authorities, Ofcom said.

Telecoms regulators are looking into what frequencies should be used for such a service. Initially, only 2G (second-generation) phones will be able to use the service to transmit voice, data and text messages, Ofcom said. The service could be extended to 3G and other standards in the future, Ofcom said.

The system would be switched off while the plane is on the ground, taking off and landing and would be usable only when the plane is flying above 3,000 metres, to prevent phones trying to connect with base stations on the ground, Ofcom said.

Ofcom's proposal was made public as part of a public consultation into the matter. Stiff opposition to the idea of passengers talking and texting during flights has already been voiced by some newspapers, including the Daily Telegraph.

  Forum Editor 18:06 19 Oct 2007

I can think of nothing worse than an aircraft full of people chattering on their mobiles, and I have already written to the Civil Aviation Authority to express my concern.

I'm sure there are many people who - like me - look upon a flight as a welcome respite from phone calls, and I refuse to believe that (apart from heads of state) there is a human being on the planet who is so important that he/she can't be out of touch for a few hours.

If this goes ahead I shall make every effort to use American carriers whenever possible - at least The Federal Aviation Authority has some sense.

  TopCat® 18:42 19 Oct 2007

"... I refuse to believe that (apart from heads of state) there is a human being on the planet who is so important that he/she can't be out of touch for a few hours." My sentiments exactly, except, perhaps, when it's a lone emergency call in to a passenger. TC.

  Colin 19:12 19 Oct 2007

"when it's a lone emergency call in to a passenger"

What is the passenger going to do at 35,000 feet? You can switch your mobile on almost as soon as the plane has landed.

  Bingalau 19:21 19 Oct 2007

FE. Even worse in the economy class (;0>

  laurie53 20:45 19 Oct 2007

Some years ago I took the advice of the then current advertising campaign and "Let the train take the strain"

For the whole of the journey the passenger next to me was yammering into a phone.

I haven't been on a train since.

Looks like airlines are out too now!

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