Airlines To Offer 5G
Airline passengers in the European Union (EU) will no longer be required to put their phones on airplane mode with a new ruling that states airlines can provide 5G technology on board planes, alongside slower mobile data.
This will mean people can use all their phone’s features mid-flight – enabling calls as well as data-heavy apps that stream music and video.
EU Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton said the plan would “enable innovative services for people” and help European companies grow.
“The sky is no longer a limit when it comes to possibilities offered by super-fast, high-capacity connectivity,” he said.
Although the EU Commission has reserved certain frequency bands for aircraft since 2008, allowing some services to offer mid-air internet access, the service is very slow.
The new system will be able to take advantage of the much faster download speeds provided by 5G.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) first introduced rules prohibiting the use of cellular telephones in 1991 to avoid interference with the pilot’s navigation systems.
However, later reports claimed that the airplane cell phone ban was to protect against radio interference to cell phone networks on the ground.
If all airlines allowed cell phone access at 40,000 feet in the air, multiple cell towers on the ground could pick up on service from active cell phones which could crowd the ground networks, disrupting service, according to the outlet.
Dai Whittingham, chief executive of the UK Flight Safety Committee, told the BBC that airplane mode was historically important due to a lack of knowledge about how mobile devices affect aircraft.
“There was a concern they could interfere with automatic flight control systems,” he said.
“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.”
There has been a concern in the US that 5G frequencies could interfere with flights, and even potentially lead to erroneous altitude measurements.
But Mr Whittingham said this is not an issue in the UK and the EU.
“There is much less prospect of interference,” he said, “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 deadline for member states to make the 5G frequency bands available for planes is 30 June 2023.