UK to allow Mobile Calls from Aircraft

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According to the Office of Communications (Ofcom), the United Kingdom will soon allow passengers on UK-registered aircraft to make mobile phone calls or send text messages while flying. Ofcom has been considering the idea since last year and has been in discussions with other European countries.

MobileCrunch reported last December and this January that Air France and Norwegian Air have been experimenting with in-flight cell calls. It appears as though the European Union is getting ready to approve passenger airline mobile calls across European airspace.

Under the UK plan, passengers will be able to use their own handsets once a plane reaches a minimum height of 3,000 meters. Service will be routed to an onboard base station to make and receive calls, which will be billed through a passenger’s normal service provider. Calls won’t be allowed during take-offs and landings.

“The safety of passengers is paramount and mobile systems on aircraft will only be installed when they have secured approval by the European Aviation Safety Agency and the Civil Aviation Authority in the UK,” Ofcom said.

Being a non-European, I want to know when other countries are going to allow cell phone use on aircraft. Up to now there have been safety concerns from government agencies but I haven’t heard any concrete evidence that on-board cell phone base stations and devices cause any interference with a plane’s ability to operate. Banning in-flight calls is like banning people from swimming in the Loch Ness because a Plesiosaur might eat them. Government regulators need to stop protecting the public from nonexistent dangers and let us exercise the freedom that mobile phones give us.

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