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Aeroplane phone conversations become reality

When flying, one of the first things we are always asked is to “put away all electronic devices” for safety reasons… but have we ever wondered why?

Converse with friends and family while being up in the air © Sam Churchill

The main reason is simple: these gadgets interfere with the navigation system on board. For example, if the WiFi signal on a gadget is switched on, the plane receives and sends mixed signals to airports because of network links released as frequency.

Consequently, it is possible to use all electronic devices only once the plane has reached a minimum height of 3000 metres. This is because flying assistants need to have enough time to discover a possible problem and its origin.

But things are changing and phone conversations in airplanes are now a possibility.

Arab Emirates is the first company to have adopted the use of electronic equipment during the whole flight duration on their Airbus A340-300. Today, already 31 airplanes (Airbus 340, A330, and Boeing B777) are equipped with the ‘AirMobile system’. Emirates decided to invest about 27 million USD to adapt its planes to the passengers’ needs (and wants).

On more than 350 flights departing from Dubai, people are allowed to make and receive phone calls and text messages. The cost for this service is equal to the amount charged by your operator for an international call and/or text. For now, only specific types of phones are certified, but the company foresees expanding its service to make this available on other types of phones as well.

Although this seems like an amazing technological advancement, there are limitations, like the amount of phones allowed to use the service simultaneously: six. This is because the network is similar to the one belonging to an on-board phone.

Recently, Ryanair has also launched a similar initiative on flights departing from Dublin. Passengers need to wait for the mobile phone sign to light up (just like the seat-belt sign) and then texting and calling may begin.