The European Commission this week said it has adopted new rules that allow the latest wireless communication technology to be used by passengers on board aircraft flying over the European Union. This means that from now on, spectrum for 3G (UMTS) and LTE communications may be used above an altitude of 3,000 meters (10,000 feet). Until now only 2G (GSM) has been permissible on-board aircraft flying in the EU. The Commission noted that this EU decision creates the possibility for airlines--rather than a right for passengers--to allow use of smartphones and tablets during flights. In order for this service to work, airlines must also install specific hardware on board each concerned airplane.
The move by the EC came as the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said it would publish guidance by the end of November on extending the possibility of using personal electronic devices (PED) such as tablets, smartphones, e-readers and MP3 players to all phases of flight as long as the devices are in "flight mode" or "airplane mode." Current EASA guidance allows the use of PED on aircraft, except during taxiing, take-off and landing. The EASA decision comes after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration also said that airline passengers will be able to use mobile devices placed in "airplane mode" during all phases of flights, including takeoff and landings. Article