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Last Updated: Friday, 17 September, 2004, 12:29 GMT 13:29 UK
Mobiles in aircraft edge closer
Airbus A320 in flight, AP
The trials were carried out on an A320 jet
Soon you could be using your mobile phone on flights as easily as you do on the High Street.

A two-year investigation has shown that mobiles can be used on planes without interfering with navigation systems.

Plane maker Airbus, which carried out the research, said the positive result paved the way for the widespread use of mobiles on aircraft.

Airbus said it was planning to put in-flight mobile phone technology on its aircraft by 2006.

High life

Before now many airlines have banned the use of mobile phones during take-off, flight and landing because of fears that they will interfere with aircraft systems and disrupt the two-way radio used by pilots.

But the two-year research project carried out by Airbus and backed by the European Commission has found that handsets can be used safely on aircraft in flight.

Testing American Airlines' new in-flight mobile phone system
American Airlines has been testing an in-flight mobile phone system
The trials, carried out on an A320, successfully tested both voice calls and the sending of text messages to and from phones onboard the aircraft.

To make it possible to use a mobile on a plane, Airbus installed a picocell that creates a small mobile phone cell onboard the aircraft.

Calls via this base station were routed to mobile and fixed phones on the ground via Globalstar satellites. It also trialled several wireless network technologies such as Bluetooth, wi-fi and wideband CDMA.

The trials also simulated a medical emergency to show how the system performed when some traffic has to be prioritised.

Airbus estimates that by 2006 it will be possible to use mobiles during flights.

It is partnering with not-for-profit cooperative Sita and Seattle-based Tenzing to set up a company to equip aircraft with the in-flight mobile technology.

Airbus is not the first to carry out trials on such a system. American Airlines has been working on in-flight mobile technology for some time and plans to introduce it about the same time as Airbus.

Also Boeing has set up a company called Connexion by Boeing to install wireless computer network technology on aircraft for use by passengers.

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