updated 07:58 am EST, Fri November 15, 2013
European flight change follows device rule changes by FAA, EASA
Passengers on flights in Europe may be able to use their smartphone's data connection in the future, after the European Commission has revealed new rules allowing the use of 3G and 4G LTE connections in flights. The new rules come shortly after both the FAA and the European Aviation Safety Authority (EASA) allowed the use of electronic devices set in flight mode at takeoff and landing for travel in the US and Europe respectively.
The rule will specifically allow the cellular access when planes are at an altitude of 3,000 meters (9,800 feet). Airlines will be permitted to install Mobile Communications On-board Aircraft (MCA) devices that will allow for mobile connectivity, but with the connections typically classed as roaming and are typically charged to the mobile user's mobile bill.
Rules from 2008 has permitted the use of MCAs on flights, though only limited their use to 2G connections. The switch to allow 3G and 4G LTE will certainly allow for faster connections, but considering the possibility of passengers using the connection to make phone calls and the possible conflict with existing Wi-Fi services, it will ultimately be at the discretion of airlines as to whether or not to allow the practice.