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Tuesday, April 08, 2008
EU to Allow Mobiles on Planes


You can use your cell phone in the skies over Europe later this year under new rules that will allow air travelers to stay in touch.

But don't expect to use your phone on a U.S. flight anytime soon.

The decision Monday by the European Union makes the 27-nation bloc the first region in the world to scrap bans on the use of cell phones in the sky. The EU insists the change will not compromise safety.

Cell phone calls will be connected through an onboard base stationlinked to a satellite and then to ground networks. A flight's captain will have the power to turn off service anytime.

Phone service will be blocked during takeoff and landing. That means using your cell phone will fall under roughly the same restrictions as using your laptop or iPod.

EU officials also say the system has been thoroughly tested. They say the calls will not interfere with flight navigation and will have additional safeguard to protect against terrorism.

In the United States, cell phone use on flights is banned by two regulatory agencies. Both said Monday they had no plans to change their rules.

On European flights, installing a base station on the plane will allow calls to go directly to a satellite system, preventing phones from wreaking havoc with flight instruments by sending out signals indiscriminately, EU officials said.

The system will rely on European GSM technology. Although the technical standards for American and European GSM phones are different, American GSM phones would work on European flights.

In Europe, travelers will be allowed to turn on their phones after planes climb past 10,000 feet. That's when other electronic devices are typically permitted. Captains will also be able to block cell phone service during turbulence.

The EU also urged airlines to set in-flight etiquette rules to ensure a balance between those wanting to make calls and others seeking a few hours of peace and quiet.


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