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EU To Allow 3G and 4G Connections On Planes

timothy posted about 9 months ago | from the never-never-never-never-hang-up dept.

Communications 106

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."

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Only for business (1)

nospam007 (722110) | about 9 months ago | (#45423766)

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:Only for business (2, Informative)

Grantbridge (1377621) | about 9 months ago | (#45423842)

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!

Re:Only for business (1)

jfalcon (163956) | about 9 months ago | (#45423938)

Doesn't apply to Airlines as the connection is satellite driven.

Re:Only for business (1)

kthreadd (1558445) | about 9 months ago | (#45424208)

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

Re:Only for business (1)

poetmatt (793785) | about 9 months ago | (#45426820)

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.

Re:Only for business (1)

Carewolf (581105) | about 9 months ago | (#45424468)

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.

Re:Only for business (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 9 months ago | (#45424736)

On most phones there's a setting to control specifically which network you want to connect to.

Re:Only for business (1)

ericloewe (2129490) | about 9 months ago | (#45425294)

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)

Re:Only for business (1)

CRCulver (715279) | about 9 months ago | (#45429039)

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.

Re:Only for business (1)

dj245 (732906) | about 9 months ago | (#45424478)

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 less headache for everyone if mobile phones remain banned on flights.

Re:Only for business (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 9 months ago | (#45424794)

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.

Re:Only for business (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45425604)

Could be a connecting flight.

Re:Only for business (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | about 9 months ago | (#45425906)

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 through security there than to drive to the mess that is ORD, find parking, ride the train to the terminal, go through that security mess, walk half a mile to the furthest reach of Concourse C or F, and then wait for your plane.

In any case, there are reasons people would fly from ORD to MKE other than just wanting to go visit the Miracle Mile or go to a Blackhawks (Stanley Cup!) game at United stadium.

Re:Only for business (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45424812)

How is this even going to work though?

From the summary:

If you're on an airplane with a Network Control Unit that regulate cellular connections

I understand it as the plane having its own mobile cell to which the phone connects. Which of course is located in the plane, and will provide a much better signal than outside towers even when the plane is still on ground.

I guess some people who call immediately after the plane landed, still from within the plane, will be surprised about their increased roaming charges. ;-)

Re:Only for business (1)

jfalcon (163956) | about 9 months ago | (#45425534)

The system is shut down during takeoff and landing. So no, this wouldn't happen normally.

Re:Only for business (1)

jmauro (32523) | about 9 months ago | (#45425308)

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

Re:Only for business (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45425356)

FTA:

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 and 4G, the Commission said. These systems are connected with the ground via a satellite connection and have a signal with limited power to ensure there is no interference with other communications, it added.

Connecting to mobile Internet while flying over Europe could be costly. Passengers are billed for roaming charges through their service provider, the Commission said. "The tariffs applied usually correspond to 'Roaming: rest of the world' prices," it said.

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.

For safety reasons, these services are only available at altitudes above 3,000 meters, the Commission added.

Re:Only for business (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 9 months ago | (#45424542)

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 around within their primary carrier's coverage zone; but close enough to port that their phone switched over to the stronger tower. Sticker shock time.

Re:Only for business (1)

intermodal (534361) | about 9 months ago | (#45424098)

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

Re:Only for business (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45424144)

Yes, but it's only 2G, so it's painfully slow.

Re:Only for business (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45424184)

Yeah T-Mobile's 'free' international data roaming is EDGE (which some refer to as '2.5G', distinguishing it from GPRS 2G data). Still it's a pretty sweet deal IMO. EDGE is adequate to check your email and look up some basic info or maps when you're travelling, which is usually all you need. Streaming YouTube can wait till you find a WiFi point.

Re:Only for business (1)

intermodal (534361) | about 9 months ago | (#45424846)

Painfully slow is superior to outrageously expensive and non-urgent.

Re:Only for business (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | about 9 months ago | (#45426384)

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.

Re:Only for business (1)

intermodal (534361) | about 9 months ago | (#45426688)

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.

No. (4, Insightful)

pseudofrog (570061) | about 9 months ago | (#45423800)

No phone calls on planes here in the US. Please.

Re:No. (2)

MoonFog (586818) | about 9 months ago | (#45423826)

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?

Re:No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45424300)

waiting for the next trigger happy comedian...

HELLOOOO??? I AM ON A PLANE!!!

* some random text to avoid the yelling filter.

Re:No. (1)

Sir_Sri (199544) | about 9 months ago | (#45424362)

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.

Re:No. (1)

ewieling (90662) | about 9 months ago | (#45424470)

Does Europe not have noise canceling headphones or foam earplugs?

Re:No. (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 9 months ago | (#45424486)

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

Dublin to Istanbul?

Re:No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45424560)

Is Turkey in the EU? Is Dublin further from Turkey than Reykjavik?

Re:No. (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 9 months ago | (#45424662)

I know Iceland is not yet part of the EU, but I thought Turkey was. It turns out I was wrong about the latter, so please substitute Istanbul with whatever the city with an international airport in Cyprus is.

Re:No. (1)

Wheely (2500) | about 9 months ago | (#45427044)

Geography is not altered by your political affiliations.

Re:No. (2)

xaxa (988988) | about 9 months ago | (#45425694)

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.)

Re:No. (1)

JanneM (7445) | about 9 months ago | (#45427128)

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.

Re:No. (1)

CRCulver (715279) | about 9 months ago | (#45429079)

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.

Re:No. (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | about 9 months ago | (#45425364)

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. (5, Funny)

Drethon (1445051) | about 9 months ago | (#45423912)

CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?!

Re:No. (4, Informative)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 9 months ago | (#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!

Re:No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45424074)

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!

They would also charge extra for the talk zone....

Re:No. (2)

mcfedr (1081629) | about 9 months ago | (#45424034)

Face the music, planes are public places, people will talk. Also people will use the internet!

Re: No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45425272)

They become public spaces the moment I can freely step outside at my own pleasure.

Re:No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45429211)

So don't be rude in public places. Talking to the person sitting next to you is one thing, talking to a disembodied presence is quite another. Using the internet is (usually) non-intrusive.

No (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45424374)

I never shut off my phone.

The airlines have had over 10 years to resolve the issue, so they have no excuses, and if it's so serious that the aircraft is in danger, then it should be grounded.

Either way, they no longer have an excuse and I do not and will not shut mine off.

Re:No (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45424546)

Careful with that. It is far cheaper for you to wind up in jail than for an airplane to be grounded and profit lost.

Re:No (1)

houghi (78078) | about 9 months ago | (#45424694)

I recently took a flight in Europe. A person looking at his Kindle was asked to turn it off. I had my earphones in and plugged in to my Android and to me they said nothing. Some random sort of profiling I think. I leave my phone o silent and low light display. That way it will not show up that easy.

Although I hope calls will be prohibited, as I would hate to sit to somebody chatting the whole time, I would not mind if people SMS, chat or Faceboob the whole flight.

I just hope that there are more ways to charge your stuff. I have seen advertisers already making the possibility to charge your stuff available at airports.

Re:No (1)

xaxa (988988) | about 9 months ago | (#45425728)

I just hope that there are more ways to charge your stuff. I have seen advertisers already making the possibility to charge your stuff available at airports.

The last time I went on a nice, new plane (one of BA's Airbuses, I think) there were USB ports in the entertainment thing. The idea was apparently to look at your holiday snaps, but it charged my phone just fine :)

(This was about a year ago, so it's probably a bit more widespread -- I haven't taken a flight over ~3 hours on a quality airline since then.)

Bad reasearch? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45423818)

"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.

Stupid and Ignorant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45424302)

No, nobody will have to install jammers. Cell antennas are designed very well, and don't reach up into the flight levels. 20 seconds with google would tell you that.

Re:Stupid and Ignorant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45424832)

Before you try to correct me, go on and read the press release, this is why I made the comment about bad research.

http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-13-1066_en.htm

Here, I made it even simpler, because as you pointed out, you're not only ignorant but also stupid.

"The system is based on three main parts: the mobile terminals, the Network Control Unit, and the aircraft base station."

" the Network Control Unit (NCU): is mounted on board the aircraft and is a kind of jammer which prevents mobile terminals connecting to, and interfering with ground-based systems, and ensure they connect only to an Aircraft Base Station (see below)"

Well crap... (1)

Ogi_UnixNut (916982) | about 9 months ago | (#45423824)

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).

Re:Well crap... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45423848)

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).

No no no... this is the EU doing this, not the US. This means that, after twelve long years, we FINALLY have something about which WE can feel a smug sense of superiority over someone else's airline travel.

Re:Well crap... (1)

Ogi_UnixNut (916982) | about 9 months ago | (#45423996)

No no no... this is the EU doing this, not the US. This means that, after twelve long years, we FINALLY have something about which WE can feel a smug sense of superiority over someone else's airline travel.

Actually, my description of the above is from the EU ;-)

What, you thought we were better? Pretty much everyone here mimicked the US when they introduced their procedure, primarily because they insisted that anyone flying to the USA had to go through this, and it was cheaper to just subject everyone to it then make a whole separate line (and hire separate people) for those traveling to the US.

I pretty much avoid flying in Europe whenever I can. Driving is so much nicer (even if more expensive), plus I can take as much luggage and liquids as I want, without being fondled at the border!

At least we have the option of high speed trains, which I've heard work really well.

Re:Well crap... (1)

c-A-d (77980) | about 9 months ago | (#45424270)

I took the TGV from Brussels to Paris in September. If I could do that in Canada (it'll never happen on the west coast, but I can dream), I'd never fly again.

Re:Well crap... (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 9 months ago | (#45424648)

You chose the right direction.

Re: Well crap... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45428951)

You're mistaken. Flights to/from the US do have separate screening lines.

If you flew often you'd know this.

Re:Well crap... (0)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 9 months ago | (#45423964)

being fondled and stripped before entry

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

Re:Well crap... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 9 months ago | (#45424558)

The term is 'gate rape'.

What's the point? (1)

areusche (1297613) | about 9 months ago | (#45423870)

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.

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

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#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...

Re:What's the point? (1)

c-A-d (77980) | about 9 months ago | (#45424290)

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

Re:What's the point? (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 9 months ago | (#45425434)

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.

Re:What's the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45427426)

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

More precisely, I believe it's that the triangulation software can't handle so many towers receiving roughly the same intensity of phone signal.

Re:What's the point? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45423944)

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.

Re:What's the point? (1)

jfalcon (163956) | about 9 months ago | (#45424018)

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.

Look everybody! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45424236)

Self importance meets a poor grasp of physics!

OMG (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45424256)

That must be why they crashed the plane. CAN'T LET THE SECRET OUT!!!1

Re:What's the point? (4, Funny)

godrik (1287354) | about 9 months ago | (#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?!

Re:What's the point? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 9 months ago | (#45424684)

Something about snakes?

The point: hear safety announcements (2)

photonic (584757) | about 9 months ago | (#45424294)

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 mostly during the first and last few minutes of a flight, they want you to pay full attention. Source: close friend is instructor for flight crews.

Re:The point: hear safety announcements (1)

Aqualung812 (959532) | about 9 months ago | (#45424456)

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 not forget how safe flying is, and quit treating it like it is something risky. Sit back, throw some tunes on, and chill.

Re:The point: hear safety announcements (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45425870)

Tell that to the bird that put a US Airways flight into the Hudson river.

Re:The point: hear safety announcements (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 9 months ago | (#45424712)

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 (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45423888)

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:I don't understand (3, Informative)

CWCheese (729272) | about 9 months ago | (#45423984)

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 his ex on the phone, except that he'd better not be an obstacle when we need to evac the aircraft.

Cell towers (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45423902)

Years ago in the Jeppesen Instrument Flight Manual, they had a diagram showing why using a cell phone in flight was a bad idea because the phone would "grab" (I can't remember the term) several towers as opposed to maybe a at most two when you're on the ground.

Anyone know about this?

I can't look it up because the book is long gone. I sold all my flight stuff because I can't afford it because of what looks to be permanent unemployment. I do see my license and log book and cry myself to sleep on occasion.

Re:Cell towers (5, Informative)

jfalcon (163956) | about 9 months ago | (#45423994)

On old school 800mhz AMPS cell phones and at lower altitude this may be true. But today most cell towers are pointed at the ground hence why you don't get a carrier signal until you're approaching/leaving the runway. What happens today is that cell phones just burn power as the phone goes to full power trying to connect. Think of how many people leave their phones on in the luggage or pocket while flying. If a phone can bring down an airplane, don't you think you'd see mobile phone jails prior to boarding?

These systems work on the premise of noise generators that blot out the external signals and a new carrier is presented just above the noise level that commands mobile phones to idle their transmitters down. In fact, one might say this causes *less* interference as you don't have a bunch of phones blasting away RF energy inside the cabin.

Cost Benefit Analysis Needed... (3, Interesting)

jfalcon (163956) | about 9 months ago | (#45423908)

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.

Re:Cost Benefit Analysis Needed... (1)

TuringCheck (1989202) | about 9 months ago | (#45424228)

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.

Re:Cost Benefit Analysis Needed... (1)

jfalcon (163956) | about 9 months ago | (#45424480)

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 provider having to invest in infrastructure to unencapsulate all this data and turn it back into IP as opposed to WiFi which is already IP. Hence it may be cheaper to still use WiFi opposed to leaving LTE burning. In Europe, you're already used to that tho.

Doesn't change a thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45423970)

Most major flights have phones on-board that can be used. The cost would probably be about the same. But just because you are allowed 3G/4G, it doesn't mean you'll get service way up in the sky. You have to be pretty low, except where flights support those services on-board. I honestly doubt this will make anyone eager to call people, maybe in first class? Heh, sucks to be them :)

Phoney issue (4, Informative)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 9 months ago | (#45424152)

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.

Re:Phoney issue (1)

timeOday (582209) | about 9 months ago | (#45424572)

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 and 4G, the Commission said. These systems are connected with the ground via a satellite connection and have a signal with limited power to ensure there is no interference with other communications, it added.

So, I don't see the advantage over using in-flight WiFi, it's just a different way to talk to the same onboard transceiver. (Are there any 3G/4G phones without WiFi?)

Re:Phoney issue (1)

jfengel (409917) | about 9 months ago | (#45424716)

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 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.

Re:Phoney issue (1)

TuringCheck (1989202) | about 9 months ago | (#45425118)

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.

Re:Phoney issue (1)

jfengel (409917) | about 9 months ago | (#45425526)

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.

Re:Phoney issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45425224)

... small detail. Operators have always been allowed to approve electronic devices; this will allow them to abdicate on testing for EMI/EMC.

Very misleading (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45424196)

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, just like on a cruise ship. So borders are irrelevant.

Test flights of this technology have been conducted in the U.S., so the FCC and FAA are theoretically open to it.

Re:Very misleading (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 9 months ago | (#45427945)

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.

Already Here in US - In Plane Internet (1)

Kagato (116051) | about 9 months ago | (#45424268)

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.

The problem is not the FAA, or the FCC... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45424312)

...The problem is with lobbyists.

This process started with Europe pushing for 'phones on planes', because it had a company who had sorted out the technology, and lobbied the European flight regulators to allow it.

The US had no comparable company pushing competitive technology. So it promptly put a ban on, until US companies could come up with appropriate systems that they could sell in the US market. Because we don't want the Europeans making a killing.

Bit like Concorde, really...

Re:The problem is not the FAA, or the FCC... (1)

jfalcon (163956) | about 9 months ago | (#45424536)

I wouldn't say that. I'm sure the companies who already provide WiFi services let alone the history of AirFone and other hardware manufacturers have lobbied the US for years. The difference is that the EU use common sense while the FAA are mainly run by luddites stuck in the 1950's.

Think of how long it has taken to get GPS based ILS put in place and approved even tho the practices and technologies have been around for decades.

Roaming costs (3, Informative)

houghi (78078) | about 9 months ago | (#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.

Re:Roaming costs (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | about 9 months ago | (#45425384)

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...

Re:Roaming costs (1)

xaxa (988988) | about 9 months ago | (#45425860)

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 allows me to use my UK plan in Italy, Australia, Japan and a few other places.

Re:Roaming costs (1)

JanneM (7445) | about 9 months ago | (#45427200)

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?

Re:Roaming costs (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | about 9 months ago | (#45428417)

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.

I'LL SEE IF I CAN FIND SOMEWHERE... (1)

martinux (1742570) | about 9 months ago | (#45424640)

...WITH BETTER RECEPTION!

*Sound of a cabin door being opened*

spon6e (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45424768)

munches the most performing.' EveN ME! It's ooficial

Summary has it completely wrong, surprise surprise (2)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 9 months ago | (#45427927)

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.

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