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In-Flight Mobile Gets Approval in UK


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"Passengers on flights in Europe will be allowed to use mobile phones in-flight after a decision by the European air-safety body. The agency has given the green light for airborne GSM equipment to be fitted by airlines which will give passengers a signal for mobile phone use in mid-flight.

The launch of the mobile services by several airlines had been delayed awaiting the award of the safety certificate by the European Aviation Safety Authority. The first airline to install the GSM equipment will be Air France on an A318 Airbus short-haul aircraft. The airline is due to start offering the service from July.

For a portion of the first six months trial service of the program passengers will only be able to use the connectivity for data, such as text messaging or sending e-mail from a BlackBerry or similar device. For the rest of the six month trial, passengers will be able to use their mobiles to make voice calls during a flight.

U.K. airline BMI and TAP of Portugal will also try the in-flight mobile technology on a single aircraft before making decisions concerning wider installment. Ryanair, known as a no-frills airline will be the first fleet deployment of the technology across its Boeing 737 planes.

The mobile technology for in-flight service has been developed by OnAir, in a joint venture between Airbus and airline industry - IT body Sita. The equipment utilizes technology from Tenzing, the company that pioneered in-flight e-mail, and Inmarsat which will be providing the satellite communications.

Signals will be picked up by placement of a picocell located on board the Airbus aircraft via a ‘leaky cable’ antenna running along the length of the plane. The signal is then converted, sent to a satellite and routed to the ground network.

The service is not free. Passengers can expect to pay between US $2.30 and US $2.50 for making in-flight calls. No formal pricing plan has been released for text messages and e-mail."

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