Passengers will be able to use cell phones on the plane during flights in Europe


The order to put cell phones in airplane mode should be abandoned on flights in the European Union from next year. The block command determined that operators will be able to offer 5G access to passengers while they are in the air.

Announced at the end of November, the decision determines that countries are ready to implement the change by June 30, 2023. However, the EU has not released details of how this will be done.

“5G will enable innovative services for people and growth opportunities for European companies. The sky is no longer the limit for the possibilities offered by super-fast and high-capacity connectivity,” said Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for the Internal Market, to the announce the measure. The bloc brings together 27 countries on the continent.

The ban on the use of connected cell phones on flights has been adopted worldwide since the popularization of cell phones, for fear that they could disrupt communication between planes and control towers, as well as sensors and digital systems on aircraft.

“There is no security risk. The research on which the determination to turn off cell phones on planes was based was very limited. The circumstances that would cause interference are very remote: a one in 10 million chance that something could happen,” says Willie Walsh , director general of IATA (International Air Transport Association.

However, in the US, the adoption of a 5G signal around airports has been delayed after complaints from airlines that the new antennas can interfere with the communications of aircraft systems with that of airports. The main issue involves the radio altimeter, which is used to accurately determine altitude and avoid collisions.

The US government has determined that companies make adjustments to the planes by July 2023, but manufacturers say there will be no time. In a letter sent in October and released by Reuters, they claimed that the disruption in supply chains will make it impossible to meet the target and asked for an extension of the deadline at least until the end of next year.

“The FAA (US Aviation Authority) has documented over 100 potential incidents of potential 5G interference. Unfortunately, US government agencies do not appear to be on the same page regarding security issues,” reads the missive, signed by Airbus , Boeing, Embraer and other names.

In the US, the 5G network operates at frequencies from 3.7 to 3.98 GHz, closer to that used by the aircraft system, which are in the range of 4.2 to 4.4 GHz. In Europe, to minimize interference, 5G for planes will use the 5 GHz band.

In July of this year, Anatel (National Telecommunications Agency) approved rules for the installation of 5G antennas near airports in Brazil. They should use the band between 3.3 and 3.7 GHz.

In Europe, passengers on planes will be able to receive the 5G signal sent from antennas on the ground when they are at lower altitudes. At higher altitudes, such as those used by international flights, the aircraft must have a picocell on board, a type of high-power router capable of creating a cellular network in a small area.

For Walsh, from IATA, the measure can be adopted quickly by airlines. “Many of them already have this equipment on their planes, which are used to communicate with the ground”, says the IATA director.

With the use of 5G, it is possible to watch live videos, play online games and use the internet for many other functions. Walsh believes, however, that companies should veto voice calls on board. “Passengers don’t want the person next to them on the plane talking on the phone,” he says.

Since 2008, the European Union reserves signal frequencies for data traffic towards aircraft. This allowed companies to start offering Internet access to users, almost always on a limited basis, with small data packages and charging extra fees. It is not known whether operators will charge extra amounts for using the signal at heights.

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