Skift Take

European regulators are now catching up on the latest internet technologies when it comes to travel. Hopefully they are not as slow in the implementation phase.

Passengers may soon be able to make phone calls on flights in the European Union thanks to a recent ruling by the European Commission. The ruling is one of two that would allow airlines and other transportation providers to provide the latest internet connection service on their trips.

Still to be determined is how passengers would react to being forced to listen to fellow passengers converse in-flight on their phones without much freedom to leave the area. In the U.S., the Federal Communications Commissions has barred phone calls on planes since 1991 out of fear that they could interfere with flight operations.

Some airlines in the Middle East and Asia already allow passengers to make voice calls during flights.

But a 2019 CNN story captured the other side of the argument.

“Pretty much across the board, people who work in airplane cabins say the idea of allowing passengers unfettered in-flight phone use would lead to chaos, conflict and downright craziness in flight,” the CNN story said. “As such, they oppose phone use vociferously.”

Under the new rule, airlines in the European Union will be able use the latest 5G technology on their planes. Since 2019, 5G has been the latest generation technology standard for broadband mobile networks and offers faster internet speed and connectivity. With the technology, passengers may no longer have to put their mobile phones on airplane mode and can use their phones to their fullest capacity, using a wider range of services that would approach matching their experience on the ground.

EU officials expect the change will support a more innovative environment for businesses. “5G will enable innovative services for people and growth opportunities for European companies,” said EU Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton. There’s not been clarity as to how member states will make these opportunities happen.

The EU Commission also amended a decision on 5GHz frequency bands, which makes such bands available for Wi-Fi on the road in cars and buses. “The amending decision lays the foundation for innovations in the automotive industry and potentially for Metaverse applications,” the EU Commission said in its published ruling.

EU member states have until June 2023 to make 5GHz frequency bands available for vehicles.

Correction: An earlier version of this article said planes have until June 2023 to make 5GHz frequency band available. The June deadline applies only to vehicle transportation.

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Tags: 5G wireless, european commission, european union, Internet of Things, mobile apps, mobile technology

Photo credit: The European Commission has made a new rule that will allow air passengers to have better internet services. Suhyeon Choi / Unsplash

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