8/04/2007

ON THE PHONE, AT 20,000 FEET?

A link to my Herald on Sunday column about the move by certain airlines and companies like AeroMobile to allow passengers to use their standard GSM phones to make calls in aeroplanes. I can just imagine that when the Airbus A380 finally lumbers down the runways of the world's airfields.

I can just imagine the polyphonic clatter of chiming Nokias as 300 people turn on their phones after reaching cruising altitude over Europe, and start texting away at 50 pence a throw. No doubt people will do it, such is our all-consuming need to keep in touch these days. They're less likely to actually make calls from the air, that will be expensive and more popular with pin-striped executives who don't worry about trivial things like mobile phone bills.

Anyway, the yanks have vetoed such a plan with the FCC keeping its ban on mobile phone use on planes. I saw the pico cell technology at the 3GSM expo in Barcelona and its rather impressive. The mobile companies have made good use of pico cells to fill out coverage in confined areas that have high demand for access. They may for example put a pico cell outside the entrance of an airport terminal so when everyone walks off the plane and turns on their phones, they get their text messages and can make calls instantly - no over-loading of the network.

The mobile companies are also now adept at providing coverage to hard to reach places like under-sea tunnels and London Underground is starting a trial of mobile coverage in the tube tunnels. I recently drove through Hong Kong's cross-harbour tunnel and mobile phone coverage was strong the length of it, thanks to PCCW and others using directional antennae to beam coverage down the length of the tunnel.

Pretty soon there will be few places we'll be without coverage. Those two boys who lost their way on Mt. Peel in south Canterbury will be thankful that Telecom's mobile coverage was reasonable enough to allow them to get some text messages out to let family know where they were. There's something reassuring in the knowledge that you're always a text message away from someone... especially when you're lost and night is setting in.

1 comment:

Juha said...

Awful idea to allow mobile phones on airplanes. Imagine what a flight with Annette Presley onboard would be like...