BT launches mobile phone for aircraft

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The Independent Online

There is now, officially, nowhere that the office can't reach you, not even in mid-air. British Telecom has devised a virtual mobile phone that can be used on any aircraft. Up until now mobiles have been deemed too hazardous to be used on aircraft because of the danger that their radio signal would interfere with the plane's controls.

There is now, officially, nowhere that the office can't reach you, not even in mid-air. British Telecom has devised a virtual mobile phone that can be used on any aircraft. Up until now mobiles have been deemed too hazardous to be used on aircraft because of the danger that their radio signal would interfere with the plane's controls.

But BT has developed what it calls a "proxy cellular phone" which operates via the Inmarsat Satellite network and a ground station on the Isle-of-Man. Passengers swipe a card with details of their mobile number and account through a hand-set fitted to their seat and they can make or receive calls.

The phone operates through the aircraft entertainment system. So even if you are watching a movie, an icon will appear on your screen alerting you to an incoming call before the hand-set starts to ring.

The system has been installed for the first time on Virgin Atlantic's new London-Delhi service but BT is in talks with other airlines.

Cellnet, Vodaphone and Orange subscribers can all use the new mobile and One2One plans to introduce it as well.

One word of caution - the service does not come cheap. A five-minute call will cost between 40 dollars and 45 dollars.

You have been warned.

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