The move aims to promote “innovation and growth”, according to the European Commission.

The European Commission has decided that airlines will be able to provide the latest 5G technology on planes. In an announcement this week, Brussels confirmed that airline passengers will be able to use the standard alongside previous mobile technology generations.

The news comes as the Commission has updated the implementing decision on spectrum for mobile communications on board aircraft. Specifically, Brussels designated certain frequencies for in-flight 5G technology.

Since 2008, the Commission’s implementing decision has reserved certain frequencies for mobile communications on planes. The rules allowed airlines to provide messaging, phone calls and data services to passengers flying in the EU. This latest update of the Commission’s implementing decision on mobile communications on-board aircraft paves the way for the widespread deployment of 5G services.

Overcoming technology and safety challenges

In-flight 5G service will be provided within the cabin of an equipped aircraft using special network equipment called a picocell to connect users and route calls, texts, and data between the airplane and ground-based mobile network.

“Passengers aboard flights in the EU will be able to use their mobile phones to the maximum of their capacity and features, just like with a ground-based 5G mobile network”, the Commission’s statement promised.

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

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decided in 2020 to abandon plans to allow in-flight voice and data services via mobile wireless frequencies. The decision was apparently due to the fact that there was strong opposition from airline pilots and flight attendants on safety and national security grounds. It seems their European counterparts do not share those concerns.

Tip: Cradlepoint supports 5G network slices in NetCloud Exchange