New technology is being developed which could finally allow mobile phones to be used on commercial airlines across European airspace. EU regulators are currently consulting on the introduction of the new technology and plans for the allowing of calls on any planes flying at over 3,000 metres.
BBC News is reporting that all European member states have been given the go ahead to implement the new satellite system for mobile phone usage on aircraft, and it’s now just a matter of who takes up the option. Up until now, mobile phone usage has been banned on commercial planes because of fears they interfere with internal communication and navigation systems.
The CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) in the UK, and the European Aviation Safety Agency are currently working on ensuring the proposed new system won’t adversely affect air passenger safety. Until such issues are resolved, the system won’t be cleared for take off (pun intended). In the US it seems, safety fears are stopping the technology being implemented in its tracks.
The proposed system will see a base station installed on all commercial airlines, which would communicate with passengers mobile handsets. In turn this on board base station would route calls to a satellite which would then forward the phone traffic on to individual mobile networks on the ground.
Even if some European countries don’t take up this option and implement the new technology, it is expected the system could still work over all European airspace thanks to co-operation between member states.
This seems like a good solution to a problem which should have been solved years ago. Mobile phone usage on planes would have advantages not only for business people who currently have to basically go off-line for the duration of their flight, but also people who just want to keep in touch with loved ones at altitude. This could come in to operation as early as next year, and I say the sooner the better.