New EC rules allow airlines to use 3G, 4G-LTE mobile broadband in the air

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The European Commission has adopted new rules that will allow passengers on-board airplanes flying over the European Union to use 3G and 4G broadband services.

Previously, only 2G GSM communications were allowed on-board aircraft flying in the EU, but now 3G UMTS on the 2100 MHz spectrum band and 4G-LTE on 1800 MHz spectrum will be allowed above the altitude of 3,000 metres.

2G communications were allowed in 2008 after the EC reviewed studies by the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT).

The latest EC decision means that airlines will now have the green light to develop new in-flight internet services, but not that passengers now have a right to use smartphones and tablets while in-flight.

In April, Mobile Europe interviewed Panasonic about its global high-speed satellite network that enables airplanes to offer passengers Wi-Fi in-flight while in transit from any location in the world (Read Panasonic Avionics promotes airplane Wi-Fi with first mid-air Tweetathon).

Panasonic Avionics’ Vice President of Global Communication Services David Bruner, claimed it is safe for passengers to have their mobile phones on while in-flight.  

“We test each aircraft with a really high signal strength that simulates every passenger having their phone on and transmitting data at a high capacity, and we have proven that it is safe to leave your mobile phone on. In general, 8-10 percent of passengers routinely leave their phones on without realising it.”

According to the EC, Mobile Communications On-board Aircraft (MCA) technology is a growing industry, and there are stakeholders in Europe who are now working on introducing a new Direct Air to Ground (DA2G) broadband technology for use on aircrafts that will bypass satellites completely.

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