Ryanair’s in-flight mobile goes live with O2

Travellers on budget airline Ryanair can now make calls while inflight, following a trial last year.

Ryanair is using OnAir's system to connect mobile devices while flying on 20 planes, mostly on flights out of Dublin. The service will be extended to the airline's fleet of 170 planes over the next year and a half.

At the moment, the service is available on the O2 network in the UK, as well as 50 other operators across Europe. OnAir said it's also working with Vodafone, Orange and 3 to get them on board, too.

"We expect customer demand for this service to grow rapidly and hope that customers of all UK mobile operators will soon be able to call or text home from 30,000 feet to tell loved ones of yet another on time Ryanair flight," said chief executive Michael O'Leary in a statement.

Flyers using the service will pay the European roaming tariffs set by their own operators, which Ryanair quoted as being between 1.50 to 3 per minute for calls and starting from 40p to send a text.

Aside from calls and texts, the service can also be used for mobile data. RyanAir suggested this would cost between 1 and 2 for an "email session" under 100kb of data, but wisely advised checking with mobile operators first to avoid a surprising bill.

The OnAir system works by creating a mini-GSM network on board the plane using a picocell base station. Calls are then routed via an Inmarsat satellite link to a ground network.

BA and BMI have similar inflight mobile plans, but are limiting network use to texts and data and not allowing voice calls - a move popular among IT PRO readers.