5G on planes, Wi-Fi on the road – Commission decision opens up new opportunities for innovation

Airlines will be able to provide the latest 5G technology on their planes, alongside previous mobile technology generations as the Commission updated the implementing decision on spectrum for mobile communications on-board aircrafts, designating certain frequencies for in-flight 5G technology.

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.

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

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

The service is provided within the cabin of an equipped aircraft using special network equipment, the so-called ‘pico-cell’, to connect the users and route calls, texts, and data, typically via a satellite network, between the airplane and the ground-based mobile network.

The Commission also amended an implementing decision on 5GHz frequency bands, which makes the bands available for Wi-Fi in road transport, for example in cars and buses. The amending decision lays the foundation for innovations in the automotive industry and potentially for Metaverse applications. According to the amendment of the implementing decision, the Member States shall make the 5GHz frequency bands available for use aboard road vehicles as early as possible and at the latest by 30 June 2023.

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