Airlines could soon allow 5G phone calls during flights

What’s worse than a loud voice on their cell phone getting loud in the airport lounge? He. She could Having the same person sitting next to you on your flight and resuming the same conversation once the plane takes off.

Yes, the specter of in-flight phone calls looms large, and has the support of EU regulators.

The European Union announced this week that it would enable the “widespread deployment of 5G services” on aircraft, using special “pico cells” installed on board to communicate with satellites and then bounce those signals back to the ground.

Certain frequencies in the 5G spectrum — potentially in the “millimeter wave” ranges, which have a short range but can handle high amplitude — will be reserved for cell phone connectivity on the fly.

The European Commission said in a statement that the decision would allow airlines to allow passengers to make and receive phone calls, text messages and data as they do on the ground.

Thierry Breton, Commissioner for the European Commission for Internal Market Affairs, promised that “5G will provide innovative services for individuals and growth opportunities for European companies.”

The US Federal Communications Commission in 2020 scrapped plans to allow voice and data services on board over portable radio frequencies, saying there was strong opposition including from airline pilots and flight attendants on safety and national security grounds.

Phone calls can indeed be made on many flights but are very expensive, while voice services such as WhatsApp and Skype are blocked on in-flight WiFi networks.

Additional reporting by Bloomberg

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