Airbus hopes passengers will be able to use their GSM mobile telephones on aircraft equipped with a satellite-linked on-board base station from 2006.

Passengers are required to switch telephones off because of potential avionics interference due to signalling between mobiles and base stations on the ground. This problem, Airbus says, would be resolved with an on-board base station as the GSM signal connection would require less power output by the telephones and so reduce potential interference. Trials are to be conducted towards the end of the year, possibly September.

Airbus says that according to its marketing research, personal mobile telephone use is a priority for passengers and that with its technology users would be billed by their network providers with "prices similar to current roaming tariffs, perhaps with a 10% premium on top".

Avionics and telecommunications firms are being selected by the European aircraft manufacturer to provide the base station and associated systems. Industry sources say Inmarsat is working with Airbus on the satellite link with the aircraft's base station.

Source: Flight International