Ryanair set to allow in-flight mobile calls

The budget airline is set to trial mobile phone access via picocell technology.

Two years after Ryanair planned to allow passengers to make mobile phone calls during their flights, and they are finally set to deliver.

Fourteen of their 166 aircraft will be provided with miniature mobile phone masts within the next two weeks for a trial period of six months.

If successful, the other 152 aircraft will be outfitted with masts allowing passengers to call, text and check their e-mail while in the air.

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"Only six passengers will be able to send or receive a call at a time because of a picocell installed on the aircraft," an OnAir spokesman said. A picocell is a miniature phone mast that emits a low signal to avoid interference with the aircraft's avionics, limiting the number people who can use their mobiles at one time.

"The European Aviation Safety Authority has given Ryanair the necessary certification for the equipment they are using," an OnAir spokesman said.

If a passenger tries making a call when six others are sending or receiving one, there will be a "network busy" message on their phone screen. However, passengers can text or e-mail as much as they please.

Calls will cost around 2 per minute while texts will cost about 40 pence each. During the trial only passengers on the O2 and 3 networks will be able to use the service.

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And, rather unfortunately, calls made in-flight will not be subject to the European Commission's price cap on texts.

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