UK regulator Ofcom has given the go-ahead for UK airlines to offer mobile phone communications, providing they get authorisation from European aviation authorities.

Passengers’ mobile phones would connect to an on-board base station, allowing them to use the aircraft’s network service to make and receive calls. Calls would be routed via a satellite link to the network on the ground.

Both mobiles and the base station would have to be deactivated during take-off and landing, however. Cabin crew would turn on the base station once the aircraft reaches 3,000 metres.

Calls will be billed through users’ normal mobile service providers.

The decision of whether to use the service now falls to individual airlines. However, the European Aviation Safety Agency must approve any hardware to ensure that it does not interfere with other flight systems.

If the service is successful, it could be extended to third generation mobiles, known as 3G, and other services.

The decision follows an Ofcom consultation on the proposals published in October 2007.

Air France became the first airline to allow in-flight mobile phone use in December.