EU and UK airline passengers will soon be able to use their mobile phones in-flight, as the European Commission has ruled that 5G technology can be provided onboard.
Once on the aircraft, passengers may no longer have to put their phones in “Airplane mode,” allowing them to make calls, web-surf, or utilize mobile data-using apps to watch movies, listen to music, etc. Member States have until June 30, 2023, to make 5G frequency bands available on airplanes.
Thierry Breton, Commissioner for the Internal market, said in a statement: “5G will enable innovative services for people and growth opportunities for European companies. The sky is no longer a limit when it comes to possibilities offered by super-fast, high-capacity connectivity.”
Dai Whittingham, chief executive of the UK Flight Safety Committee, told BBC about mobile devices that “there was a concern they could interfere with automatic flight control systems. What has been found with experience is the risk of interference is very small. The recommendation has always been that once you are in flight, devices should be in in airplane mode.”
Earlier this year, the US administration called for a further delay in the introduction of the 5G high-speed mobile network, citing potential risks to aviation. According to an expert quoted by the BBC, this does not pose a risk to airlines within the EU and UK, as they use a different set of frequencies for 5G. “There is much less prospect of interference. We have a different set of frequencies for 5G, and there are lower power settings than those that have been allowed in the US.”
“The travelling 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.”Dai Whittingham
In-flight Wi-Fi services have been available since 2008 on some aircrafts, but the system proved to be extremely slow, as it relied on a satellite to establish a connection between the aircraft and a ground relay.