Passengers on flights within Europe will soon be able to use their phone with high-capacity 5G connections without activating airplane mode.
The European Commission has decided that airlines must offer 5G technology onboard in addition to allowing mobile data.
This means that passengers are exempt from using airplane mode on their phones, despite the specific details of this not having been announced.
The changes allow travelers to make phone calls, send text messages and stream videos.
Why do passengers need to activate airplane mode on flights?
Airline passengers in the EU are currently requested to turn off mobile phones or activate airplane mode for the duration of the flight.
This is because, historically, there was little understanding of how mobile data could affect the aircraft’s communication and navigation systems.
The theory was that personal electronic devices could emit a signal within the same frequency band as the aircraft, thus creating electromagnetic interference.
According to the chief executive of the British Air Safety Committee, Dai Whittingham, experience shows that the risk of interference is very small. He therefore looks calmly at a future with free use of mobile devices on board aircrafts.
“The traveling public wants 5G. The regulators will open up that possibility, but there will be steps that will be taken to ensure that whatever they do is safe,” he told the BBC news.
The US is not on board
In the US, concerns have been raised about how 5G frequencies could jam aircraft systems. There are even corcerns that high-capacity connections can cause changes in altitude measurements.
The United States introduced the ban in 1991, like almost every country in the world.
When the proposal to allow in-flight voice and data services over mobile wireless frequencies came up for review again in 2020, the US Federal Communications Commission was quick to reject it.
However, this is not a problem in the UK and EU. Here the mobile data infrastructure is different to the US. According to Whittingham, UK and EU have a different set of frequencies for 5G. They also have lower power settings than those allowed in the US.
Airplane mode on your phone is therefore still necessary to connect when you travel outside the borders of the EU.
In the EU, electronic devices have been allowed on planes since 2014, but at slow speeds.
When will air passengers be able to make phone calls in the EU?
The approval from the European Commission means that airlines will soon allow passengers to use mobile phone data on board flights.
European member states have until 30 June 2023 to make 5G technology available on aircraft.
This means airline passengers will be able to make phone calls, access apps and stream music and videos on flights in 2023.
“The sky is no longer the limit when it comes to the possibilities offered by super-fast, high-capacity connectivity.”
This is what Thierry Breton, EU Commissioner for the Internal Market, said.
He explained in a press release that 5G mobile data will enable innovative services for people and growth opportunities for European companies.
Airlines will be able to provide high-speed internet with 5G. Passengers will then be able to download a movie within few minutes.
Do you think it is good news that you, as an air passenger, in the future can use your phone unlimitedly during the flight?