What to expect: airline passengers are used to either completely shut themselves off from the outside world, or pay an additional fee for access to Wi-Fi in flight. But thanks to new legislation adopted by the European Commission, passengers on flights from the European Union will soon be able to use all the standard mobile functions of their device during the flight.
On Thursday, the European Commission announced that EU airlines will now be allowed to provide access to 4G and 5G wireless networks on board for all passengers. Once implemented, passengers will be able to use their mobile devices in the same way as any terrestrial mobile network during the flight. Goodbye, airplane mode; we can’t say it was fun.
🇪🇺The EU has ditched #AirplaneMode rule – passengers in Europe will now be able to connect to 4G or 5G while on a plane.
For low altitudes they can connect normally. For high altitudes, airlines can equip planes with 5G receptors to connect for free. https://t.co/FM5trwqBqX
— Dave Keating (@DaveKeating) November 25, 2022
The onboard network of “small cells”, created using picosot, will provide in-flight service. Small cells function as miniature low-power cell towers that complement typical cell towers, filling gaps in coverage and unloading cellular traffic. The result is a wider and more reliable cellular network, providing high data transfer speeds and easier deployment using simple and cost-effective cellular solutions.
Picos are a special type of small and inexpensive small cell technologies that can support from 32 to 64 individual users, providing coverage of up to 250 m within the network. Their size and ease of deployment indoors or outdoors make them ideal for expanding and improving the range in institutions and structures such as schools, shopping malls and other small businesses. Once deployed on a participating aircraft, the cells will route calls, text messages and other mobile data between the aircraft and ground mobile networks.
Thierry Breton of the European Commission, Commissioner for the Internal Market, considers the new legislation a potential catalyst for stimulating new services in the EU and business growth.
“The sky is no longer the limit when it comes to the possibilities offered by ultrafast high—bandwidth connectivity,” Breton said.
The drive to expand access to 4G and 5G is likely to go beyond air travel. The Commission also amended the decision on the 5 GHz frequency, making these bands available for use in cars, buses and other modes of transport. The amendment to the executive decision states that Member States must make the 5 GHz frequency bands available for use on board road vehicles no later than June 2023.