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The ban on mobile phones on airplanes may soon be lifted, but most people are opposed to their use in-flight for voice calls.

That's according to a worldwide survey by IDC which indicated that far from supporting a lifting of the ban by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the US, a number of consumer groups claim the use of mobile phones on board airplanes would disturb passengers. Only 11 per cent of the 50,000 respondents would support the use of mobile phones for voice calls while on board an airplane.

While the majority of respondents would not approve of passengers making voice calls during flights, some 64 percent of respondents indicated their approval of using mobile phones for data services such as SMS. Of the 11 specified wireless activities, in-flight messaging emerged as the most popular choice among respondents.

The survey, which seeks to highlight opportunities for mobile operators in the in-flight market, identifies a correlation between the level of interactivity of a service and the user's interest in that service.

"Whether a mobile vendor is interested in the in-flight market or not, the key finding from the survey remains the same: by comprehending the needs and criteria specific to the user segment and location, mobility companies can enhance their products to better serve and target the desired customers and market segments," said Data Thorat, research manager, Mobile Users IDC.

According to IDC, the lifting of the in-flight ban on mobile phone usage could potentially lead to an increase in data usage and the all-important ARPU (average revenue per user). It could also drive the development of new channels and increase demand for data-enabled phones and smart phones.

Some mobile players are already making in-roads into technology that would enable air passengers to place and receive calls during commercial flights. Last week Ericsson announced the launch of a system to provide in-flight mobile phone services. The RBS 2708 base station will function like any other terrestrially-based mobile phone station but will not interfere with aircraft instrumentation, or with terrestrial radio networks, Ericsson said.

It remains to be seen whether the uniform ban will be lifted, but the possibility seems closer than ever. In the US the FCC proposal to lift the ban is understood to be under consideration, with the US Federal Aviation Authority having the final say on the matter in the US. In Europe, the ban would have to be lifted by the aviation authorities in the individual Member States.

© ENN

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