The European Union (EU) on Monday announced plans to begin licensing in-flight use of wireless communications devices and services. It is likely that service providers interested in offering in-flight cell phone service may get EU approval before 2008-end.
The European Commission has emphasized that cell phone service users on-board aircraft shouldn't find themselves saddled with huge bills. ''We expect operators to be transparent and innovative in their price offerings,'' said EU telecom commissioner Viviane Reding, in a Monday statement. ''If consumers receive shock phone bills, the service will not take-off.''
According to Reding, business travellers especially, stand to benefit significantly from being able to ''communicate wherever they are, wherever they go.''
The agency also said it will ensure that in-flight mobile phone use doesn't interfere with technology used in airplanes or clashes with the need for on-board security.
Critically, Reding's statement also said that airlines and service providers should create necessary conditions on board aircraft in order to ensure ''that those who want to use in-flight communication services do not disturb other passengers.''
European airlines, including Air France, are already testing in-flight cell phone services. Others, including TAP in Portugal, Ryanair and British Midway plan to launch services later this year. Most of these services will be provided by OnAir, a division of Airbus.
German flag carrier, Lufthansa, said Monday it won't be offering in-flight phone service for its passengers don't want to be disturbed by calls being around them.
The airline may, however, be considering a re-launch of its on-board Internet access service.