We’ve been told airplanes and cell phones don't mix for a long time. We all know the now route message asking you to please turn off cell phones, pagers and other electronic devices while in the air.
Earlier in this week, Atlantic Virgin airlines made an announcement that bucks traditional policy. They've announced in a limited number of their aircraft customers will be able to make cell phone calls, as well as to text message, on transatlantic flights.
The calls will only be available on about 20 of the flights initially, so odds are you will not have to deal with a lot of people using their cell phones on your flights right away, unless you fly on the most expensive flights.
Don't think for a second it will be cheap to call from 30,000 feet in the air either. The technology will only be usable by customers of O2 (News - Alert) and Vodafone. The phone networks of other carriers will need to be brought up to speed to do the job. How is this all being achieved? With the use of satellites and picocell. The Picocell (News - Alert) acts as a microscopic GPRS cell tower and allows the signal to be carried in the middle of the air, well outside of the range of normal signal towers.
Signals are only going to be very short range, and may be weak for now. The range on cell phone signals has to be short, or the technology will end up inadvertently messing with the sensitive equipment on the plane. Since most reasonable people would agree the pilot is more important than a static-free call, this makes sense.
Edited by Braden Becker