August 30, 2006 in Politics

Mobile Calls on Airplanes

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Despite the cheap tickets on offer with Ryanair from London to many popular European destinations, I have not flown with this airline because I have no desire to be herded like cattle. And from reading article below, it looks like I have yet another reason to not fly with this airline. It’s bad enough that on the commute to and from work I have to listen to many self absorbed twats talk nonstop on their mobile phones, I can’t imagine having to suffer such a faith on a 2/3 hour plane ride. So here’s hoping that the other major airlines don’t follow suit.

Ryanair to allow mobile calls 30,000ft up
London Times, August 30 2006, By Mark Frary
Passengers will soon be able to use their own mobile phones and BlackBerrys on board Ryanair flights.
In a deal announced today, the airline has said it will install technology developed by Geneva-based OnAir, a joint venture between aircraft manufacturer Airbus and aviation technology firm SITA, on its entire fleet of Boeing 737s starting from mid-2007. Some 50 aircraft are expected to have the system installed within six months of the launch.
Announcing the deal in typical fashion, Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary said: “Ryanair will soon enable passengers to use their mobile phones and electronic communications devices in the air, just as they do on the ground. That means they will be able to pass on the good news to workmates, friends and family that they are travelling on another on-time flight with Europe’s most punctual airline.”
However, one important barrier remains for OnAir to overcome – the technology has not yet been approved by the regulatory authorities, although the firm is confident this will happen.
One of the issues that regulators will be wrestling with is interference with ground-based mobile phone networks. OnAir’s system is installed in the ceiling of the aircraft and detects a passenger’s mobile phone within seconds of it being turned on. The system then instructs the mobile phone to switch to a low power mode within nanoseconds which means it should not interfere with ground networks.

The company also insists that its technology does not interfere with delicate aircraft equipment.
OnAir’s chief executive George Cooper says the regulators are being “helpful and cooperative”.
As far as pricing is concerned, the airline will be keen to avoid installing expensive equipment that passengers do not use. Airlines started ripping out seat-back satellite phones when they realised passengers were not prepared to pay rates of £6 a minute to use them.
Cooper says that OnAir’s pricing is likely to be in the region of £1.20 to £1.30 a minute when first offered and will fall by 10 per cent a year as ground-based networks are forced to cut ground-based roaming rates. Ryanair will receive a commission from OnAir for every call made.
Cooper says that calling rates are intentionally similar to those on the ground. “What we are really trying to do is offer passengers a viable choice. They can choose to make a call on the plane or when they land. If there is too much difference between cost and quality, people will make calls when they are on the ground,” he said.
OnAir is aware of the potential problems that introducing mobile phones into the aircraft cabin may cause. “It seems to me that a lot of people want to use their own phone but not the guy next to them to use his,” says Cooper.
“We are working with the industry to establish a core set of guidelines [on usage]. We will be putting in a number of technical controls into the system that will allow the crew to manage it however they want. For example, late at night, the crew will be able to switch off the voice capability but allow GPRS and data usage.”
Using your phones or other devices is expected to be banned during take-off and landing and OnAir says it expects to see no smoking signs, redundant since smoking was banned on most airlines, replaced by no mobile phone signs.
Ryanair will not be the first airline to install the technology. A new Air France Airbus A318 is expected to roll off the production line with the system pre-installed early next year.

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