Mobiles to be used on planes


It follows a consultation that the regulatory body published on Mobile Communications on Aircraft (MCA) services in October 2007 for the use of these services.

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) have to grant approval to the systems before they are installed. Individual airlines can then decide if there is a big enough consumer demand to have these services fitted.

Passengers will be able to connect to an on-board base station using their handsets, both of which must be switched off during take-off and landing to ensure that mobile networks on the ground aren’t interfered with.

The system can be switched on once the aircraft reaches a minimum height of 3,000 metres. This will enable people to make and receive calls that will be routed via a satellite link to the network on the ground.

Handsets will initially connect to the system for 2G data, voice and text services and if the service is successful, 3G speeds may be introduced.

However David Tansley, telecoms partner at business advisory firm Deloitte, expressed doubts over the plans, suggesting there are still some questions to be answered.

“Ofcom’s announcement may be something of a red herring – getting approval from European aviation authorities for using mobiles in flight may be more onerous than getting approvals from the communication regulators,” he said.

“It is also unclear what level of call quality will be delivered and what the practicable service issues will be, for example, frequent call drop outs. However, the convenience on offer for business travellers may offset any quality issues.”