Qantas is doing a test of service that allows you to access GPRS data service (read: send and receive e-mail) and send SMS messages on planes. This system only works for GSM carriers and essentially creates a mini GSM tower on the plane that acts like a virtual country (read: international roaming must be enabled and expect to pay international roaming fees). Furthermore, GSM phones self-regulate their power, so by having the mini tower within the plane, the RF output from the phones will be minimal.
I wouldn't mind having the ability to send and receive my e-mail (I'm assuming that Blackberries would also work by using the GPRS data connection) and to send and receive text messages while flying nor would I mind if anyone else on the plane was interacting with the data portion of their phones; lots of flyers, me included, will queue up messages on their phones now so that they can be sent as soon as the phone can be turned back on.
I've posted about voice service on planes and had some people disagree with me being against it, but I have to say that the small experience of calls made on planes prior to take-off and after landing are enough for me to maintain being against voice capabilities while flying.
While this solution works well in countries where GSM is the predominant or only technology in use, implementing a similar system might prove to be much more expensive and complicated due to the competing technologies.
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