Australians will soon be able to ‘tweet’ and ‘text’ from their domestic airline seat after the communications watchdog gave the green light for mobiles to be used during flights.
The new ruling by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) could potentially revolutionise airline travel and further emphasize the growing instant communication phenomenon, bringing Australia into line with other countries that have enjoyed the technology for some time.
Following consultation with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, which has raised no technical objections to the new arrangements, airline passengers may soon be able to text, check email and use data during flights. No figures on data transfer speed have been offered at this time.
Although some telecommunications companies have concerns the market will be dominated by an international carrier that regulates communication through a device called pico-cell, ACMA has said it will consider alternative technologies, as long as they don’t compromise safety and meet approved standards.
“The Australian Communications and Media Authority has finalised radio communications licensing arrangements to facilitate mobile communication services on aircraft,” ACMA Chairman Chris Chapman said in statement.
“The licensing arrangements will allow airlines to deploy mobile communication services on their aircraft through special on-board systems, should they choose to do so.
“In developing these arrangements, the ACMA was conscious of the need for harmonisation with aviation safety regulations and the protection of terrestrial communications networks from interference.”
So far, only one carrier, Aeromobile – a subsidiary of Norwegian telco Telenor – is able to provide the service, which will cost users international roaming charges, despite the communications taking place in domestic skies. In-flight texts alone can be five to 10 times the price of standards texts.
According to the Herald Sun, in its submission to ACMA, Telstra said the proposed licensing scheme would artificially restrict mobile traffic to one provider aboard each aircraft and deny Australian consumers access to the country’s highly competitive mobile market.
“We would welcome the ACMA and the airlines allowing people to use their mobile devices in flight, but consumers should not be restricted to any one technology or provider,” Telstra said.
“Australia has a thriving and highly competitive mobile market and there is no reason why it shouldn’t extend to the skies as well.”
Vodafone Hutchison Australia, in its submissions, also cited the importance of non-exclusive agreements for carriers.
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