April 7, 2008 / 9:40 AM / 12 years ago

EU to harmonize takeoff of in-flight mobile calls

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - “Honey, I’m on a plane” will be increasingly overheard on flights — much to the annoyance of some passengers — as the European Commission on Monday unveils a pan-EU approach to licensing in-flight calls.

An aircraft prepares to land at Heathrow airport in London March 11, 2008. REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico

The EU executive will harmonize a pan-European framework for mobile communications on aircraft so passengers can make and receive calls, text messages and use email with their own mobile phone, a Commission source said.

The aim is to provide a regulatory “one-stop shop” and avoid a patchwork of approaches emerging as in-flight calls using personal mobile phones start to take off, the source added.

European Union Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding has already stepped in to cap the price of mobile calls made on land in the 27-nation bloc and wants to ensure callers in the air won’t be ripped off either.

There are no plans to cap the price of in-flight calls but Reding is set to say she will keep a close eye on how the market develops, the source said.

Her measures will harmonize and simplify the technical requirements for using mobile phones and the way EU states will grant national licenses to airlines.

An aircraft registered in France or Spain would be able to offer mobile communications services to passengers when flying over Germany or Hungary without having to apply for additional national licenses.

The Commission is due to unveil two measures:

— a recommendation or non-binding set of guidelines for EU states to follow that will lay down a harmonized approach to licensing;

— a Commission decision that will set out harmonized technical parameters of onboard equipment for in-flight mobile phone use throughout the EU.

It will be up to airlines, not the Commission, to decide when mobile phones can be used in the air.

Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Dale Hudson

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