EU To Allow Cell Phone Calls On Planes

The service would work by allowing passengers' phones to be linked to an onboard cellular network connected to the ground via satellite, simultaneously preventing phones from connecting directly to mobile networks on the ground below, according to an EU release.

The release said the configuration will ensure that transmission powers are kept low enough for mobile phones to be used without affecting the safety of aircraft equipment or the normal operation of ground-based mobile networks.

"Harmonizing the technical requirements for the safe deployment of in-flight mobile communication services will enable the national licenses granted to individual airlines by the Member State in which they are registered to be recognized throughout the EU," the statement read. "For example, an aircraft registered in France or Spain will be able to offer mobile communication services on aircrafts to passengers when flying over Germany or Hungary without any additional licensing procedures."

The cellular service will be turned off during takeoff and landing, can only be used at altitudes around 10,000 feet and higher. The captain will have the ability to disconnect service at any time, which the EU said bolsters the safety of other passengers in the case of an emergency.

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"One regulatory decision for all European airspace was required for this new service to come into being," EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding told Reuters.

She cautioned service providers that passengers would not accept artificially high prices. "Now we expect operators to be transparent and innovative in their price offerings," she said. "However, if consumers receive shock phone bills, the service will not take off."