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Australian OK for passenger comms on aircraft

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has finalised radiocommunications licensing arrangements to facilitate mobile communication services on aircraft, a move that reflects the ACMA’s "commitment to facilitating new and innovative services that provide a benefit to the public and increase consumer choice," according to ACMA chairman Chris Chapman.

"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," Chapman comments.

The ACMA says it has consulted closely with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, which raised no technical objections to the new arrangements.

In areas which are not spectrum licensed, the new regulatory arrangements will authorise and license mobile communication services on aircraft by apparatus and class licences. In spectrum licensed areas and as a consequence of the current legislative construct, mobile communication services on aircraft may be authorised by agreement with the spectrum licence holder.

"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," says Chapman.

The use of on-board systems must at all times be in accordance with airline safety and operational procedures. Calls connecting directly to terrestrial networks are not authorised under the licensing arrangements.

Should alternative, safe methods of mobile communication on aircraft be proposed for commercial operation in the future (including those that access Australia’s terrestrial networks), the ACMA says, it would move to consider those methods.

V Australia has announced plans to offer on-board SMS and data services subject to the ACMA making appropriate regulatory arrangements . The licensing arrangements now facilitate those arrangements.

In establishing permanent licensing arrangements, the ACMA says it does not propose to restrict the types of mobile communication services on aircraft that can be offered in order to exclude any particular service, including voice calls.

Rahter, it regards the deployment of any particular kind of service as entirely a commercial decision to be made by service providers and airlines.

Following feedback from industry, the ACMA adds, it has adopted a revised fee regime and the licence issue charge will now be consistent with its charging for other apparatus licences.

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