March 26, 2008 / 11:50 AM / 12 years ago

Mobile calls set for take off on UK planes

An aircraft prepares to land at Heathrow airport in London March 11, 2008. REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico

LONDON (Reuters) - Passengers on UK-registered aircraft could soon be able to use their mobile phones to make calls and send text messages, the telecommunications regulator Ofcom said on Wednesday.

Ofcom, which had been examining the proposals since last year, said the plans would be subject to approval by the relevant UK and European aviation bodies.

The regulator said the decision had been developed with other European Union countries and the system could be used in European airspace.

Under the plans, airlines wishing to provide the service would allow passengers to use their own handsets once the aircraft reaches a minimum height of 3,000 meters. They would not be allowed during take-off and landing for safety reasons.

The system would work by connecting the mobile phone to an onboard base station to make and receive calls which would then be billed through a passenger’s normal service provider.

“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.

“If such approval has been secured it will be a matter for individual airlines to judge whether there is consumer demand for these services.”

In responses to the consultation, British airline BMI said it was eager to offer its passengers a mobile service.

Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Quentin Bryar

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