Ofcom green-lights mobiles on aircraft

Ofcom green-lights mobiles on aircraft

One more reason not to fly

UK's Ofcom has published guidelines allowing airlines to install equipment that enables in-flight mobile phone calls on aircraft.

The watchdog plans to allow mobile phone base stations to be built into aircraft and used to pick up calls from passengers. These would then be relayed to the ground using the aircraft's satellite communications system.

"Ofcom is aware of concerns from some consumers about passenger welfare and safety around the introduction of mobile communication on aircraft in the UK," said the regulator in a statement.

"However, it is a matter for the UK Civil Aviation Authority and other regulatory bodies to consider these issues separately. No services can be introduced until the requirements of those bodies have been satisfied."

Only GSM phones operating in the 1800MHz band would be used initially, but 3G phones could be included if trials are successful. Mobile data would also be allowed.

The systems, and all phones, would have to be turned off during takeoff and landing for safety reasons.

Charging levels have not yet been set, but Ofcom has recommended that phone operators handle the billing. International roaming charges will have to be standardised to suit the proposed service.