About 104 million Chinese took to the skies on domestic, regional and international flights last year and within six months they, and others like them, may be chatting on mobile phones during their flights.
Authorities in China are considering lifting restrictions on the use of mobile phones while airborne. The changes are likely to take force later this year or early next.
Bloomberg news service has quoted Zhu Tao, director of the air transportation division at the Civil Aviation Administration of China, confirming that changes are pending to rules that currently limit the use of electronic devices during flights.
The changes, which follow new regulations introduced about three years ago in the US and Europe, will open up Chinese airspace to in-flight connectivity hitherto available only in developed markets.
If the green light is given, Chinese passengers will be able to surf the internet and shop online. They will probably be able to use Smartphones and applications like WeChat. They may shop, or even trade stock.
Around the world, the proliferation of voice-based platforms like Skype and WhatsApp could see the skies becoming a very loud place. The trend my be more pronounced in China, world’s most populous nation. The Chinese are keen on shopping as well as chatting. The global market for in-flight e-commerce is set to reach USD 1.7 billion by 2020.
Already, China Eastern is spending about USD 300,000 to fit each of its planes with Wi-Fi.
Written by Peter Needham