EU sets out rules for in-flight mobile use

8 Apr 2008

The European Commission has introduced rules designed to spur rollout of in-flight mobile phone services.

It is hoped the rules will spur development of mobile communication services on aircraft operating in the EU.

The rules set out harmonised technical parameters of onboard equipment for in-flight mobile phone use throughout the EU. These will allow member states to recognise each other’s licences for mobile communications on board aircraft, without risk to mobile networks on the ground.

Passengers’ phones will be linked to an onboard cellular network connected to the ground via satellite. The system will at the same time prevent phones from connecting directly to mobile networks on the ground below. This will ensure transmission powers are kept low enough for mobile phones to be used without affecting the safety of aircraft equipment or the normal operation of terrestrial mobile networks.

The Commission has also called for a harmonised approach on licensing which will promote mutual recognition between national telecoms authorities for mobile communications services on aircraft.

Air safety issues are to be addressed by airworthiness certification procedures for equipment for in-flight mobile phone use. These are provided by the European Aviation Safety Agency for the whole EU, and by civil aviation authorities, to ensure the safe use of technology in the aircraft cabin. Security considerations related to the use of in-flight use of mobile phones are also being tackled by national justice authorities.

“Pan-European telecom services, such as in-flight mobile telephony, need a regulatory ‘one-stop shop’ to operate throughout Europe. One regulatory decision for all European airspace was required for this new service to come into being,” said Viviane Reding, the EU’s Telecoms Commissioner.

“Now we expect operators to be transparent and innovative in their price offerings. In-flight mobile phone services can be a very interesting new service, especially for those business travellers who need to be ready to communicate wherever they are, wherever they go,” Reding added.

“However, if consumers receive shock phone bills, the service will not take off. I also call on airlines and operators to create the right conditions on board aircraft to ensure that those who want to use in-flight communication services do not disturb other passengers.”

By Niall Byrne