Back in October Ofcom said it was going to investigate the viability of letting passengers infuriate each other use their mobile phones while on planes. Well, in a rather zippy five months the findings are back and thumbs have been raised.
In short, once an aircraft reaches an altitude of more than 3,000m (so it's still mobiles off on take-off) they will be allowed to use their handsets to connect to an onboard base station - dubbed the 'pico cell' - which creates a mini network just large enough to cover the plane. Network signal is then re-routed through a satellite which communicates with the mobile networks on the ground.
2G connectivity is the only standard being looked at for phase one (so you'll be stuff with in-cabin WiFi for data surfing) and calls will carry a premium compared to standard tariffs. To this end however Ofcom says it will monitor "excessive charges and abuses of competition".
Mobiles are currently banned in planes as they interfere with onboard communication and navigation systems with real world testing showing they can throw off navigation bearing displays by up to five degrees. This is a worst case scenario figure though, otherwise mobiles would be put in hold luggage rather than left up to user discretion/conscious.
So it seems the skies will become the latest place where the utter joy of mobile phone silence will become a thing of the past. And readers, by all means use this service just know if you talk for more than 20 minutes and I'm beside you then you're going out the airlock.
Ofcom Approves Mobiles On Planes