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Ericsson has launched a system to provide in-flight mobile phone services ahead of a widely-anticipated end to the ban on calls during commercial flights

The new Ericsson RBS 2708 base station functions like any other terrestrially-based mobile phone station and will allow passengers to place and receive calls when at cruising altitude.

Airline passengers are currently instructed to switch off their mobile phones before a plane takes off, as the signals could interfere with aircraft instrumentation. But although the latest mobile technology has reduced the risk of interference, air safety regulations have not been changed to take this into account.

Ericsson says that the RBS 2708 base station will not interfere with either the plane's instrumentation, or with terrestrial radio networks. The system can support up to 60 calls simultaneously and also offers support for dual-band phones.

Richard Lord, project manager at Irish company Altobridge, told ElectricNews.net that its in-flight GSM products have already been installed on the Boeing 777 and Gulfstream 550 aircraft. Like Ericsson, Altobridge makes technology to allow for in-flight phone calls. Aviation authorities worldwide have a uniform ban on the use of mobile phones on commercial aircraft during flights. However, the body that advises the US authorities on these matters, the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics (RTCA), is understood to be reconsidering the ban. Lord said that the RTCA's SC-202 working group on portable electronic devices was coordinating its work with its European counterparts and said that there were "quite positive" indications that the ban would be partially or fully rescinded.

The US Federal Aviation Authority would have a final say on the matter in the US. In Europe, the ban would have to be rescinded by the aviation authorities of each of the member states.

However, representatives of both the Irish Aviation Authority and the European Aviation Safety Agency told ElectricNews.net that they were not aware of any imminent changes to existing policy on wireless devices.

Copyright © 2005, ENN

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