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ACMA OK's in-flight mobile plans

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has proposed to permit the installation of in-flight mobile phone systems, which are necessary for Qantas and Virgin Blue plans to offer SMS and GPRS services on an aircraft.
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Written by Suzanne Tindal on

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has proposed to permit the installation of in-flight mobile phone systems, which are necessary for Qantas and Virgin Blue plans to offer SMS and GPRS services on an aircraft.

(Credit: ZDNet.com.au)

The systems go against the 1999 Mobile Jammer Prohibition, which bans use in Australia of equipment which causes interference to mobile services.

ACMA said that it has become apparent that some devices which block the use of certain frequencies to prevent potential interference to other services, such as the pico cell technology used to stop mobile phones having adverse affects on aircraft systems, have benefits.

Last year the Authority authorised Qantas to carry out a trial of in-flight mobile services on one of its aircraft by amending the Notice to allow the use of pico cell technology for the trialling of in-flight GSM services. Qantas announced the trial a success, saying it intended on bringing services to a select number of domestic routes serviced by Qantas' fleet of Boeing 767s and Airbus 330s by the end of the year.

From ACMA's perspective, the trial also had a positive outcome, as there were no interference complaints during the trial.

Now the authority has said it wants to pave the way for Qantas and Virgin Blue subsidiary V-Australia to offer SMS and GPRS services on their aircraft by amending the Notice to allow the use of pico cell systems for in-flight mobile systems in general.

"Australia led the world when it trialled in-flight GSM mobile phone services in 2007," ACMA Chairman Chris Chapman said in a statement. "There is growing recognition by regulators worldwide that in-flight mobile phone services can be deployed without interference to existing telecommunications services."

Submissions on the changes have to be lodged by the 17 November. A spokesperson for the Authority said that whether the amendments went into place in time for Qantas' hoped service start at the end of the year would depend on the nature and number of submissions.

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