Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Communications Cellphones EU Handhelds Transportation Your Rights Online

EU To Allow 3G and 4G Connections On Planes 106

Posted by timothy
from the never-never-never-never-hang-up dept.
jfruh writes "In America we're celebrating the fact that we don't have to stow our Kindles during takeoff and landing anymore, but the EU is going a step further and not requiring passengers to switch their phones to "airplane" mode anymore. If you're on an airplane with a Network Control Unit that regulate cellular connections, you can text and make calls over standard 3G and 4G networks. You'll want to watch out for roaming charges, though, especially if you're on a flight crossing national borders."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

EU To Allow 3G and 4G Connections On Planes

Comments Filter:
  • One word:

    Roaming.

    As long as that is no settled, nobody in his right mind will use it if sending a selfie costs 3-5€ depending on your camera.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Grantbridge (1377621)
      In the EU there are laws keeping roaming charges down. Often they are less than the cost to use your own phone in your own country!
      • by jfalcon (163956)
        Doesn't apply to Airlines as the connection is satellite driven.
      • by kthreadd (1558445)

        Keeping them down does not mean you shouldn't watch out for them. They are still fairly high for most people.

        • by poetmatt (793785)

          I don't think you have any idea what the roaming fees are. They're almost as cheap as italian phone plans, which are some of the cheapest in the world.

      • by Carewolf (581105)

        It already appears to not apply on ferries between EU countries. Annoyingly even when you can stil reach land based towers the ferries local repeater wins and will try to fleece you.

        • by CastrTroy (595695)
          On most phones there's a setting to control specifically which network you want to connect to.
          • It's also typically buried under layers of menus (for good reason, too - think of the amount of people whose phones would "stop working" otherwise)

        • by CRCulver (715279)

          It already appears to not apply on ferries between EU countries.

          Most Baltic Sea ferries already have free wi-fi, so one can just use an alternate channel to get in touch with someone (Skype, Internet SMS gateway) instead of calling or sending an SMS from one's phone.

      • by dj245 (732906)

        In the EU there are laws keeping roaming charges down. Often they are less than the cost to use your own phone in your own country!

        How is this even going to work though? A plane at 20,000 feet (which is relatively low actually) can see thousands of towers. I am surprised the cell companies haven't complained that this screws with their networks. Only on the very short flights (15-20 minutes) such as Milwaukee to Chicago would the plane be low enough (~5000ft) and see few enough towers for it to even possibly work. Combine this with the metal tube of the airplane and it seems like a technical impossibility.

        Honestly it seems like

        • by CastrTroy (595695)
          I'm not that familiar with the route, but I can't imagine anybody taking such a short flight in anything but a private plane. It's only 1.5 hours by car, and, based on what Google maps says, they also have a train that runs 6 times a day. By the time you get to the airport, go through security, get on the plane, and get your rental car, you could have already driven there.
          • by Obfuscant (592200)

            It's only 1.5 hours by car, and, based on what Google maps says, they also have a train that runs 6 times a day. By the time you get to the airport, go through security,

            Unfortunately for people living in Milwaukee, if you want to fly someplace like New York or LA or Orlando to see Mickey, you usually can't fly there directly. You go to the closest hub for your chosen airline, which for United at least is Chicago Orchard Field (ORD). From there you transfer to something going closer to where you want. And when you come back, you will probably go through ORD and catch a plane to Milwaukee.

            It is probably faster and more convenient to drive to the airport in Milwaukee and go

        • by jmauro (32523)

          It will probably be a local cell on the plane that relays through a satellite connection. Like they do WiFi now.

      • In the EU there are laws keeping roaming charges down. Often they are less than the cost to use your own phone in your own country!

        If the situation is like that with cruise ships, it may not save you. Vessels large enough to justify them commonly have picocells (or maybe just small cells, I'm not up with where the distinction breaks down exactly), operated as a sort of 'private label' thing by the operator of the vessel or somebody they have an agreement with. And damn do they get expensive, fast.

        There have been a few tragicomic cases in the news about poor bastards whose phones roamed onto such towers when they were wandering aroun

      • by mosiadh (1045736)

        In the EU there are laws keeping roaming charges down. Often they are less than the cost to use your own phone in your own country!

        I've gone throughout the EU with my phone and everytime I leave my home country my bill spikes! Roaming charges in Europe are still ridiculous even with "roaming agreeements" and despite both your home and "foreign" carrier having the same corpotate overlord.

    • I don't know about Europe, but my US T-Mobile plan recently has apparently extended my data plan to free international by default.

      • by Obfuscant (592200)

        I don't know about Europe, but my US T-Mobile plan recently has apparently extended my data plan to free international by default.

        "Apparently" is the operative word here. Before you rely on the claim in their ad, check with T-Mobile about your specific plan. I saw the ad and thought "yay!" Then I went online to see which plans it applied to, and of course mine was not one of the few that it does.

        And if your plan is covered, keep in mind that when you turn your phone on "over there", it will register your US number and you'll be "able" to get all your calls forwarded from the US -- at the international roaming rate.

        • I received a specific text to my phone telling me that I now had free international data, but I agree that if I go abroad, I need to read up on it first. I have no plans to use it, I just find it convenient to know that if I were "over there" and really needed to hop on my email without a hotspot, I could.

          I don't answer my phone domestically, I certainly have no plans to do so on foreign soil.

    • by jalopezp (2622345)
      Two words: Company mobile.
  • No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pseudofrog (570061) on Thursday November 14, 2013 @01:15PM (#45423800)
    No phone calls on planes here in the US. Please.
    • by MoonFog (586818)
      Yeah, as if flying wasn't annoying enough I now have to listen to the person next to me talk on the phone for the entire flight? Roaming chargers will negate some of that I'm sure, but given that EU has also suggested that those charges should be drastically lowered as well... yeeeah, what can possibly go wrong?
      • by Sir_Sri (199544)

        The only saving grace is that a flight from LIsbon to Warsaw (which is about the extreme edge of a flight within the EU) is only 3.5 hours. Most of the time you're not going to be stuck listening to someone loudly talking in a language you don't speak for more than a couple of hours.

        • by ewieling (90662)
          Does Europe not have noise canceling headphones or foam earplugs?
        • LIsbon to Warsaw (which is about the extreme edge of a flight within the EU)

          Dublin to Istanbul?

          • by xaxa (988988)

            LIsbon to Warsaw (which is about the extreme edge of a flight within the EU)

            Dublin to Istanbul?

            Saint Denis (Reunion) to Paris, just over 11 hours.

            (But within the continent, I'd guess somewhere in Finland to somewhere in Portugal, or Cyprus to Scotland.)

          • by JanneM (7445)

            Helsinki to southern Spain takes about 6:30. If you start from one of the northern Swedish or Finnish cities you can add another hour or two of in-flight time, but you'd need to transfer on the way.

            And of course, if you don't restrict yourself to the contiguous continental EU you can get much longer flight times than that.

            • by CRCulver (715279)

              Helsinki to southern Spain takes about 6:30.

              I recently flew from Tampere to Málaga and the flight took 3 hours 50 minutes (left Tampere at 2050, arrived in southern Spain, which is on hour behind Finland, at 2340). I could only assume that by "southern Spain" you actually mean the Canaries instead of Andalucia.

      • Yeah, as if flying wasn't annoying enough I now have to listen to the person next to me talk on the phone for the entire flight? Roaming chargers will negate some of that I'm sure, but given that EU has also suggested that those charges should be drastically lowered as well... yeeeah, what can possibly go wrong?

        I envision a whole new web game - guess the other side of the conversation. Record you seat mate's half of the call, and let imaginations run wild...

    • Re:No. (Score:5, Funny)

      by Drethon (1445051) on Thursday November 14, 2013 @01:29PM (#45423912)
      CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?!
    • Re:No. (Score:5, Informative)

      by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Thursday November 14, 2013 @01:35PM (#45423954)

      Some trains in Germany have "no cell phone" quiet zones. Maybe airlines could introduce them, as well?

      But, given the current business models of airlines at the moment, they will charge extra for a quiet zone!

    • by mcfedr (1081629)
      Face the music, planes are public places, people will talk. Also people will use the internet!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    "You'll want to watch out for roaming charges, though, especially if you're on a flight crossing national borders."

    I don't know where this comes form but carriers will have to install jammmers to disable communication with ground towers. They'll need their own station inside the aircraft which in turn connects via sattelite. So you'll likely pay the fee the aircraft carrier decides on.

  • Between the long lines at security, stress, and being fondled and stripped before entry, the only nice thing that was left about flying was the lack of self-important people yakking on their phones throughout the flight... until now.

    (hopefully the roaming charges will make absolutely sure nobody does voice calling, but that will depend on how much they charge).

    • being fondled and stripped before entry

      . . . just think of it as "TSA Foreplay" . . .

  • Yeah I've been using my phone during take off and landing my ENTIRE life. I hide the electronic and the second the flight attendants sit down the device comes back out. I'm listening to music. What's the point of of all this hubbub? I can't even get a signal and if I leave my phone on. It will keep trying to find a signal and will run itself out of battery faster.

    Another question that baffles me, how were the people on the 9/11 flights able to use their cell phones during flight? Yeah they have the in sea

    • Re:What's the point? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 14, 2013 @01:31PM (#45423928)

      Yeah I've been using my phone during take off and landing my ENTIRE life. I hide the electronic and the second the flight attendants sit down the device comes back out. I'm listening to music. What's the point of of all this hubbub? I can't even get a signal and if I leave my phone on. It will keep trying to find a signal and will run itself out of battery faster.

      Another question that baffles me, how were the people on the 9/11 flights able to use their cell phones during flight? Yeah they have the in seat phones, but i still remember hearing people say, "Yeah they used their phones!" Fun fact that everyone seems to forget.

      Getting a signal on the plane is not the problem, you have unobstructed line-of-sight to a shitload of cells. The problem is that you mess everything up for the people on the ground by communicating with so many cells...

      • by c-A-d (77980)

        The cell network was never designed with the idea that one phone was going to hit an entire metropolitan area's cell towers.

        • by CastrTroy (595695)
          Well there were planes in the air long before there were cell phones. Surely they could have foreseen the problem with people in airplanes forgetting to turn their phone off.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      What's the point of of all this hubbub? I can't even get a signal and if I leave my phone on. It will keep trying to find a signal and will run itself out of battery faster.

      The airplanes in this article have repeaters.

      Another question that baffles me, how were the people on the 9/11 flights able to use their cell phones during flight? Yeah they have the in seat phones, but i still remember hearing people say, "Yeah they used their phones!" Fun fact that everyone seems to forget.

      They were not flying at a proper altitude.

    • by jfalcon (163956)
      Flight 93 once hijacked was flying very low in an attempt to avoid radar after diverting towards Washington. That is how people were able to use their mobile phones.
    • by godrik (1287354) on Thursday November 14, 2013 @02:13PM (#45424280)

      Another question that baffles me, how were the people on the 9/11 flights able to use their cell phones during flight? Yeah they have the in seat phones, but i still remember hearing people say, "Yeah they used their phones!" Fun fact that everyone seems to forget.

      And you saw how that flight ended?? DO YOU REALLY WANT THAT AGAIN?!

    • There are two reasons you have to switch of your electronic devices during takeoff/landing: first, the electronic interference, which is not considered a problem anymore these days. The second, more unknown, reason is that they do not want you to listen to music so that you can hear the safety announcements. I am not talking about the usual 'live-vest is stored under your seat' story that everyone has heard 100 times, but instructions to evacuate in case of real emergencies. Since these emergencies happen m
      • You may be explaining verbatim what your source said, but it is bullshit.

        Anything that requires action on my part is going to be pretty obvious just by watching everyone putting on their lifejackets and/or trying to put their head in their crotch. I'm pretty sure I'll notice.

        "What if everyone is on their headphones?"
        Look at the flight at 30,000 feet. Is everyone on their headphones? No. Enough people are there with someone else they are talking do that their actions will cause others to take notice.

        Let's no

      • Plus they don't want relatively hard, dense and non-draggy objects bouncing around the cabin in the event of a bad landing, hitting dirty air etc.

  • I don't understand (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I honestly thought that one of the reason why they have the no electronics during take off and landing was to ensure that people are paying attention to what's going on in case of emergencies.

    Hell I've had stewardesses ask me (very nicely) to put away a physical textbook I was reading.

    But yeah, please keep the ban on cell phone use for making calls, in fact ban any type of audio conferencing. Last thing I want is an obnoxious asshole blabbing away really loudly next to me.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by CWCheese (729272)
      That's the reasoning I was given by an off duty flight attendant who was flying standby in the seat next to me. She said that during the takeoff and landing segments, the crew would rather the passengers be alert and ready since those are the riskiest segments of the trip. And I'd agree, especially flying in the Rocky mountain states where the wind shear in the late afternoon - early evening timeframes makes any roller coaster seem dull. I couldn't care less about the numbskull in the next row yelling at hi
  • by jfalcon (163956) on Thursday November 14, 2013 @01:29PM (#45423908) Homepage Journal
    Having worked for a provider of these services, I can tell you that telephone calls are usually very, very short due to cabin noise and connection charges. But SMS and Data have always been a bigger draw. I see this as a win as hopefully this will nudge the FCC/FAA to become more symmetrical in the rules between the US and Europe.

    The real question is what will be the cost model for UMTS/LTE vs In-Cabin WiFi as each has a entirely different set of data protocols and are routed differently once they reach the ground network.
    • Operational costs are dominated by the connection to the ground stations (usually satellite but can be something else). Not sure how much licensing the systems costs, I know just 2 vendors and there are thousands of patents involved.
      • by jfalcon (163956)
        Satcom is a mostly fixed cost as it's based on usage overall (think 95% average billing). Plus deals can be worked out with the satellite providers. They would rather have the network making money rather than being idle.

        But think of the stream coming off the satellite as one big pipe. So that's a known cost based on overall usage. But then it's routed on the ground different ways. Since GPRS/GSM/UMTS/LTE/etc... is a mobile protocol, you're now having to route to another network or if you're the provide
  • Phoney issue (Score:4, Informative)

    by Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) on Thursday November 14, 2013 @01:58PM (#45424152) Journal

    Sat next to a guy once who taught jet pilots for a living. He had an awesome flight tracker running on his laptop.

    Apparently rules against phones being on during flight isn't an FAA thing, it's an FCC thing. You pass from cell tower to cell tower so fast it confuses and stresses the system.

    • by timeOday (582209)

      You pass from cell tower to cell tower so fast it confuses and stresses the system.

      According to TFA, this is a separate system that doesn't use your carrier's towers. To me it sounds no different than offering WiFi on the flight (which is relayed to the wider internet using a dedicated system such as satellite):

      To give passengers mobile Internet access, airlines need to equip planes with an improved mobile communication on-board aircraft (MCA) system that makes use of pre-existing spectrum bands for 3G

      • by jfengel (409917)

        Well, it does let you place ordinary phone calls without Skype or other software. It should all be "just data" but the phones and pricing plans are still set up to make a big deal out of the difference.

        I would assume, in fact, that they intend to charge you for this, as with the WiFi (since the new hardware and the satellite connection aren't free, after all, and their whole industry model is about upcharging these days). Which would be odd, since once people see that talking on phones is allowed, they're g

        • Which would be odd, since once people see that talking on phones is allowed, they're going to just take out their phones and try to connect to the ground towers to circumvent the cost. I have no idea how well that will work.

          The on-board cell is fitted with jammers that prevent detecting the ground towers at all. This is to prevent phones from boosting power to reach ground.

          • by jfengel (409917)

            That makes sense. I'm not sure how one does such a thing without interfering with your own operations, but I can imagine that it's possible. Thanks.

    • Apparently rules against phones being on during flight isn't an FAA thing, it's an FCC thing. You pass from cell tower to cell tower so fast it confuses and stresses the system.

      More to the point: Not only is the summary wrong, the TFA is wrong too. A different (and somewhat contrasting) Press Release from the European Aviation Safety Agency [europa.eu] clearly states:

      The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) will publish by the end of November 2013 guidance which will extend to all phases of flight the possibility to use personal electronic devices (PED) such as tablets, smartphones, e-readers and mp3 players as long as the devices are in ‘Flight Mode’ or ‘Airplane Mode

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is very misleading.

    This is not about regulations. You can't just use your phone on any flight and connect directly to the ground. You'll never be allowed to do that, for technical reasons.

    This is about planes with onboard cell towers, which are rare, although RyanAir offered this starting 2009. So the EU has allowed it for quite a while. Nothing new here.

    Also, roaming doesn't change when you cross borders, because you're not roaming on any one country's network. You're roaming on the airline's network,

    • Also you will still be required to switch to Airplane Mode on take-off and landing, so basically the summary hasn't got anything right.

  • We already have the ability to make calls via VoIP, Facetime, etc. Anything internet based. The vast majority of mainline domestic planes have internet and do not restrict most voice protocols. The only saving grace has been internet became so popular on planes that services like GoGo quickly ran into bandwidth and latency issues (Most planes share a single 3G gateway). That will change as upgrades happen.

  • Roaming costs (Score:4, Informative)

    by houghi (78078) on Thursday November 14, 2013 @02:45PM (#45424564)

    There are roaming cost limits in Europe. This means a maximum of 0.09 EUR per SMS. Not sure what the limits are for national calls, nor what it is for data, but the limits are reasonable within Europe.

    I wonder if they will make exceptions depending on destination or if they find another way to add some extra cost to it.

    • There are roaming cost limits in Europe. This means a maximum of 0.09 EUR per SMS. Not sure what the limits are for national calls, nor what it is for data, but the limits are reasonable within Europe.

      I wonder if they will make exceptions depending on destination or if they find another way to add some extra cost to it.

      Why should you have roaming charges at all in the EU? I can go from JFK to SFO and never pay a dime in roaming charges and text all I want.,/P>

      Cue the US vs EU cell phone market pricing flame war...

      • by xaxa (988988)

        Why should you have roaming charges at all in the EU?

        Because they can (different countries). Hence the need for legislation to force the phone companies.

        The limits are here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Union_roaming_regulations#Common_limits [wikipedia.org] -- they go down every few years. Next year they will introduce the ability to choose another provider for making calls while roaming, which should lead to decent competition and a big reduction in prices.

        Some networks do allow free international roaming where they are part of a multinational. My network allow

        • by JanneM (7445)

          Why should you have roaming charges at all in the EU?

          Because they can (different countries).

          And different companies. I suspect that's really a larger part of the reason. In the US, don't you pay extra if your own provider is unreachable in some particular spot and your phone switches to one of the others?

          • Why should you have roaming charges at all in the EU?

            Because they can (different countries).

            And different companies. I suspect that's really a larger part of the reason. In the US, don't you pay extra if your own provider is unreachable in some particular spot and your phone switches to one of the others?

            In general no. Most have agreements in place to roam on each other's network, although they may limit data roam and do get upset if all you do is roam.

  • ...WITH BETTER RECEPTION!

    *Sound of a cabin door being opened*

  • In America we're celebrating the fact that we don't have to stow our Kindles during takeoff and landing anymore, but the EU is going a step further and not requiring passengers to switch their phones to "airplane" mode anymore.

    You'll still need to switch to airplane mode during take-off and landing: "For safety reasons, these services are only available at altitudes above 3,000 meters, the Commission added."

    You'll want to watch out for roaming charges, though, especially if you're on a flight crossing national borders.

    You won't be connecting to ground networks. You'll be connecting to the plane's onboard network - you may well be charged at "roaming" rates but "crossing national borders" will have nothing to do with it.

    From the article:

    Aircraft offering the service have a Network Control Unit on board that works like a jammer that prevents mobile devices from connecting to and interfering with ground-based systems. They ensure they connect only to an Aircraft Base Station, which is the antenna to which mobile devices connect and runs as a cable through the cabin, it added.

No amount of genius can overcome a preoccupation with detail.

Working...