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Mobiles get wings

Satellite based mobile phone services will allow airline passengers to make calls from on high. By Vanessa Knivett.

ET phone home. Bearing in mind the costs involved, it’s no wonder he kept it short …
Unless you are blessed with extraterrestrial powers or a large bank account, communicating with those in the air or vice versa has been a costly exercise. And if you had your phone on by mistake, then it might have proved costly for the airline too ...
Mobile phones, for safety and simple accessibility issues, have been categorically prohibited in flight. Whilst the current systems and regulatory environment allow for perhaps one or two mobile phones to be left ‘on’ onboard, more than this number poses a risk to the safe operation of the aircraft. Explains Rainer Koll, vice president of Thales Aerospace Division and general manager of Thales Avionics: “As the plane takes off, the link quality degrades, and the mobile phone’s power control increases transmission power to try to maintain the link with the terrestrial network. A phone radiating at 1W might interfere with the very sensitive navigation systems onboard. Also, the ‘phone is often attempting to log onto more than one cell on the ground at once, because the phone at that height can see perhaps two or three cells – thus interfering with ground based networks too.”
Deemed largely for ‘in emergency’ use only, the current solution – a phone which is hardwired to your seat which can be accessed with a swipe of your credit card – is typically charged at $8 to $10 for one minute. Meanwhile, whilst a satellite phone might technically work in flight, the switching technology would not have been in place to deal with plane’s movement.

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Vanessa Knivett

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