Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/09/08/in_flight_calling/

Brits don't want in-flight calling

Er, too late, probably. Sorry

By Bill Ray

Posted in Phones, 8th September 2010 15:12 GMT

A new survey reveals that the majority of Brits don't want regulations on in-flight calling relaxed... a shame since those regulations were relaxed more than two years ago.

Online store Mobile Phone Expert asked more than 1500 people if they "welcomed the change in legislation that allows passengers to use their mobile phones". Almost half reckoned that in-flight calling would disturb their journey, though 34 per cent agreed that "it was about time regulation was relaxed".

A strange sentiment when the regulations on in-flight calling were published by Ofcom in March 2008, with the service being demonstrated by Air France a month later. The inability to make calls while in the air is now a commercial issue, not a regulatory one.

To get a mobile working the aircraft must be fitted with a femtocell (a tiny base station), and a satellite uplink to carry the calls. The femtocell also has to be a particularly smart one to keep status updates to a minimum, as every time the handset registers with the network it costs the airline money. That's expensive, and while some airlines are slowly rolling the technology into their aircraft others are holding back until they see some demand.

Data services are easier to provide: no unchargeable registration to worry about with Wi-Fi. Lots of flights (particularly in the USA) provide Wi-Fi access from the plane - at a price of course.

But Mobile Phone Expert is concerned that 58 per cent of the over 35s don't want in-flight calling, and that "this small change to the rules could have a huge impact on an airline’s business". We're not convinced that Ofcom sees its extensive consultations and statements on the subject as a "small change", but we're not convinced that Mobile Phone Expert is all that expert either. ®