Europe backs in-flight mobile networks

Mobiles could soon be used once planes have reached an altitude of 3km or higher

Mobile phone use on planes is now being fully backed by the European Commission, which has approved the installation and use of miniature mobile phone base stations (or pico cells) in planes across the EU.

Mobiles could be used once planes have reached an altitude of 3km or higher and the first services could start to be rolled out as early as next month.

Calls will be routed to terrestrial networks via a satellite link. Only second generation networks will be used initially, but this could be expanded to third generation (3G) networks should consumer demand prove high enough.

Shock bills warning

Viviane Reding, the EU telecoms commissioner, had the following message for mobile operators: "If consumers receive shock phone bills, the service will not take-off".

Of course, the main problem of mobile phone use on planes - particularly on long-haul flights - is the annoying disturbances your conversations might cause for other passengers.

Passenger disturbance

Predicting this, Reding also added: "I also call on airlines and operators to create the right conditions on board aircraft to ensure that those who want to use in-flight communication services do not disturb other passengers."

Air France is believed to be one of the first companies readying the technology for an imminent launch. TechRadar will bring you further news on other airline companies providing in-flight mobile access as and when we get it.

Adam Hartley