The EU is to allow phone use on planes
The EU has agreed to allow phones to be used on airplanes without the need to turn phones to flight mode—a change that will make a lot of travelers very happy indeed.
Currently, anyone traveling in the EU must turn their phones off or at the very least ensure they are on flight mode—because historically very little was understood about how mobile communications would impact flight communications, as Dai Whittingham, chief executive of the UK Flight Safety Committee told the BBC. “There was a concern they could interfere with automatic flight control systems,” Whittingham said.
Since 2008, the EU has reserved certain frequency bands for airlines to use for internet access mid-air, but this hasn’t worked very well as it relies on people being connected via equipment and a satellite between the air and the ground.
Now, the EU has said that new, much faster 5G technology can be used, which should allow someone to download a movie in a couple of minutes. In the U.S., there have been concerns that 5G use on airplanes could interfere with flight control systems and lead to incorrect altitude measurements. However, Whittingham said that there is less chance of that because the U.K. and the EU use different 5G frequencies and lower power settings.
Thierry Breton, EU Commissioner for the Internal Market said in a statement that “the sky is no longer a limit when it comes to possibilities offered by super-fast, high-capacity connectivity.”
The European Commission passed the ruling although it is not yet clear when and how it will work—EU member states have been given the deadline of June 30, 2023 to enable 5G technology aboard all aircraft.
Response to the news has been mixed. Breton said that it will undoubtedly offer many companies the chance to compete for new 5G flight services aboard aircraft and others see a bonus in allowing business travelers to remain connected mid-air.
However, other people argue that it also allows for increased stress aboard, disrupts the peace with the risk that people hold lengthy and loud conversations for the flight duration and increases the chances for anti-social and disruptive behavior.