Be happy to arrive late to every mobile phone technology party, America, because the European Union has just approved the use of mobile phones in airplanes. Effective immediately, any compliant aircraft will allow for in- and outbound calls using regular mobile phones starting at 9,800 feet. The technical requirements are quite simple.
You will only need an on-board base in the plane. The base will relay all calls to a satellite, which will pass them to the ground-based cell network. According to the BBC, the service will start appearing as early as next month, starting with Air France—which apparently is ready for deployment—and following with low cost airline Ryanair. For sure, one thing that is not going to be low cost are the calls themselves.
Expect to pay an arm and a leg for this air roaming, even while government agencies are already watching for abusive practice. [BBC News]