Monday, 7 April 2008

"I'm on the plane!"

That's it, the one sanctuary left without anyone being able to reach you by the ubiquitous mobile “cell” phone or, (more importantly) reach anyone sitting around, is about to disappear. Yes, it’s about to happen. no more being out of electronic contact for the duration of a flight. All of that is now being relegated to a bygone era with today's decision by the Commission to allow mobile phone calls on flights within the European Union.

Under new draft EU rules all of us, Scottish air passengers included, will soon be able to make and receive mobile phone calls as well as text messages while flying across the European Union, except during landing and take-off.

According to the Commission's press release, the decision means "the 90% of European air passengers that already carry mobile phones on-board aircraft can remain contactable during flights".

The UK telecoms regulator announced at the end of last month that it would allow airlines to offer mobile phone services.

But what does this mean? Well, it isn’t going to be as straightforward as switching on your mobile and making the call from 30,000 feet! Instead, you will need to access a dedicated on-board mobile network controlled by the airline (and licensed by national regulators) and you will be subject to a special tariff – presumably to be negotiated between the airline company and the mobile service provider. The EU ‘value-added’ is to ensure that national rules governing the airborne use of mobile phones by national operators are such that allow passengers on all flights within the EU to utilise this service regardless of what country they are over-flying.

I guess it would be so 20th Century to oppose this type of “progress”. Then again – you can just hear the conversation: "Hi. I'm on the plane, Where am I? I don't know where I am, but I’m above the clouds".

No comments: