Phone calls on flights in Europe allowed from next summer

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One of the last bastions of phone-free travel is about to get connected, eliminating the need for airplane mode – at least in the European Union. 

In late November, the EU announced that airlines can provide 5G technology on planes, alongside previous mobile-technology generations, allowing passengers to use their smartphones without restrictions during flights. 

“5G will enable innovative services for people and growth opportunities for European companies,” said Thierry Breton, EU Commissioner for the Internal Market, in a press release. “The sky is no longer a limit when it comes to possibilities offered by super-fast, high-capacity connectivity.” 

The deadline for countries within the EU to make 5G frequency bands available for planes is June 30, 2023. That means folks flying in the EU might be kissing digital disconnection goodbye by summertime. 5G will make all smartphone features operational during air travel. 

Here are answers to questions about what this new rule means and how it will impact travelers. 

What is this new technology?  

The fifth-generation mobile network, 5G is the latest wireless standard to use radio frequencies to carry information through the air. Inflight 5G service will be provided on aircraft using special network equipment called “picocell,” which uses a satellite to connect the plane’s network to the mobile network on the ground. 

According to EU sources, once picocell technology is present on an aircraft, passengers can use their phones through the mobile data function rather than the wi-fi function. 

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I thought airplane mode was a necessary safety measure. How does this work? 

Airline passengers are told to set phones and other tech devices to airplane mode because of potential electromagnetic interference with an aircraft’s navigation systems. But the frequencies…

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