People traveling by air in the European Union (EU) will soon be able to fully utilize their phones while they are flying. The European Commission ruled that airlines can offer 5G technology alongside slower mobile data on board planes.
This could mean that passengers will no longer need to put their phones in airplane mode, though the specifics of how this will be implemented are unknown.
Member states have until 30 June 2023 to make the 5G frequency bands available to planes.
This means that people will be able to use all of their phone’s features while in flight, including calls and data-heavy apps that stream music and video.
The plan, according to Thierry Breton, EU Commissioner for the Internal Market, will “enable innovative services for people” and help European businesses grow.
“The sky is no longer a limit when it comes to possibilities offered by super-fast, high-capacity connectivity,” he said.
Since 2008, the EU Commission has reserved certain frequency bands for aircraft, allowing some services to provide in-flight internet access. However, this service has historically been slow because it relied on equipment to connect people via satellite between the plane and the ground.
The new system will be able to take advantage of the much faster download speeds provided by 5G, which can be over 100Mbps according to mobile network EE, allowing a film to be downloaded in just a few minutes.
According to Dai Whittingham, chief executive of the UK Flight Safety Committee, airplane mode was historically important due to a lack of understanding 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 some concern in the United States that 5G frequencies could interfere with flights and even lead to inaccurate altitude measurements.
However, Whittingham stated that this is not an issue in the UK or 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 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.”
(Adapted from BBC.com)