Business Calls at 30,000ft - the Future of In-flight Phone Calls

By: Andy Adams

Spend any time waiting for a flight in airports and sooner or later you'll overhear someone talking into their mobile phone telling the person on the other end: "I'll call you when I land" - normally uttered by some rushed businessman or someone on the phone to their loved ones.

Aircraft themselves have until now been free of these calls but a piece of legislation is being put forward by regulators across Europe to introduce technology allowing passengers to safely use their mobile phones during flights.

Up until now the use of all mobile phones and some other electrical goods is banned on all flights due to evidence that they can affect vital navigational equipment.

The frequency which mobile phones operate on can cause aircraft bearings to be off by up to 5 degrees. However this new study says there is a new frequency being reserved for mobile phones that can be used safely during flights, as long as all parties agree on enabling this function.

Many people are for the proposal, amongst them some of the businessmen previously mentioned. But also, in the event of an emergency, a passenger's medical conditions, such as asthma, allergies or diabetes, can be quickly accessed.

While there is a lot of support for the use of mobile phones on planes, equally there are people who hate the prospect of obnoxiously people talking loudly in the seat next to them, or having to put up with tacky ringtones while stuck ina narrow metal tube at 30,000ft.

These people are being reassured by the suggestion that sections of the plane would be dedicated for phone use, leaving the rest as a mobile-free zone. Or there could be a policy of allowing text messaging or emails only.

This proposal is currently only being made for European airspace only and so the technology needs to be able to be switched off when in restricted airspace. In fact, in the US things appear to be heading in the opposite direction: a proposal is being put forward to the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) over there for a unilateral ban on communication devices on planes, especially given concerns over terrorism and air rage.

The proposal for Europe is currently being looked at by flight companies as well as mobile network operators, as it is ultimately up to the airlines whether they provide this technology.

The perception is that most of the more "business-friendly" airlines, such as British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, would look to this as a new key factor in attracting business customers.

The technology would come at a cost, however, and some expect a "premium" rate for using mobiles on planes may be dictated by airlines. This potential cost has aroused suspicion from Ofcom, the media watchdog, which is already primed to investigate excessive charges from airline companies and networks.

It is thought that the costs of calls will be roughly around the usual roaming charges with your network. Travellers who use their mobile phones abroad will be used to this level of cost, but those likely to be renewing their call plans should check out the roaming charges levied by the many mobile phone deals on offer.

In the meantime, as long as mobile phones are banned on planes it is advisable that you do not use them, as in the past punishments have been severe - imprisonment in extreme cases. There is also the possibility of interference with the aircraft, endangering everyone on board, including yourself.

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