European Commission approves 3G and 4G data use on flights

As soon as the European Aviation Safety Agency announced that there was no opposition to allowing flight passengers to use smartphones, eBook readers, tablets and the like during take-off and landing in European countries, another decision was made that will affect technology on flights, this time by the European Commission.

It has said that airlines will be allowed to deploy 3G and 4G networks on their flights in Europe, including the UK. That doesn't mean you will be able to use your smartphone to check for emails when up in the clouds, but that the company itself could offer in-flight data services by connecting to available bandwidth.

"Spectrum for 3G (UMTS) and 4G (LTE) communications may be used above an altitude of 3,000 metres," said the Commission in a statement. "Until now only 2G (GSM) has been permissible on board aircraft flying in the EU, which is impracticable sending large amounts of data (for example sending large attachments, downloading eBooks, watching video)."

It is now down to the airlines to choose whether they want to exploit this new ruling and offer services to their customers. "If airlines take advantage of the new possibilities, passengers will have access to better internet services, at times when their aircraft is flying above 3,000m altitude," the statement continued. "So if you want to surf social networks during your flight, or send emails with attachments, this decision makes that possible."

Don't bank on any changes happening too soon as it could take a while for airlines to implement new technologies on their aircraft. The cost might also filter down as connection fees. But it's a second piece of good news in a week for European travellers.



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