The plan is to install small mobile phone base stations, called pico cells, in aircraft that will be switched on after take-off. The base station generates a bubble of coverage in and around the aircraft.

Calls made via the pico cell will be routed to terrestrial networks via satellite link. Across Europe radio spectrum has been set aside for the technology.

The services could stop working once aircraft leave European airspace.

Martin Selmayr, spokesman for Ms Reding’s office, said that flight captains would be able to switch off the on-board service if they felt it necessary.

Initially, only second generation networks will be offered but growing interest would mean that third generation, or 3G, services will follow.

The first flights offering calls could start as early as next month.

Air France is believed to be ready to deploy the technology while Ryanair is expected to submit an application.

The cost of making a mobile phone call from a plane will be higher than making one from the ground.

In the UK, regulator Ofcom said it would investigate and address any evidence of “excessive charges and abuses of competition” if prices were set unfairly by airlines and mobile networks.

Ms Redding has said the EC had no plans to cap the cost of calls made on planes.

The European Commission backing means planes registered in one country would be able to offer mobile communications services to passengers when flying over other EU countries without having to apply for additional national licences.

Source:bbc.co.uk

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