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In-flight 3G and 4G coming to a plane near you?

Air passengers could soon be chatting to friends and surfing the web on their smartphones, under new proposals launched by Ofcom.

The regulator has published a consultation document seeking to allow 3G and 4G mobile devices to be used in flight on a licence-exempt basis.

According to the document, passengers with certain airlines have been allowed to make 2G calls since 2008. The draft regulations concern the on-board use of 3G (UMTS 2100) and 4G (LTE 1800) devices.

The new proposals from the telecoms watchdog come after a European Commission decision to approve the adoption of additional access technologies and frequency bands. All Member States are required to adopt this decision into national law by 12 May 2014.

The EU decision, made in November last year, does not give passengers the right to use phones in-flight, rather it lets airlines decide whether they will allow usage.

European Commission spokesperson Ryan Heath said at the time: “This EU decision gives airlines to opportunity to allow their customers to use their smartphones and tablets in-flight. We’re saying there is no reason why passengers should be prevented from using their mobiles and their tablets during flights (when the plane is above 3000m). Airlines remain in charge about whether they allow this during their flights or not.”

Ofcom is to leave its consultation open until 12 March this year. The move comes after Ofcom gave its blessing to carriers to use superfast broadband satellites to provide in-flight connectivity.

Image: Flickr/Kuster & Wildhaber

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