Ofcom consults on draft regulations that would permit 3G/4G phone use on aircraft

Since 2008, the use of mobile phone handsets with mobile communication services on aircraft (MCA) has been exempt from the need to obtain a licence in the UK (in respect of flights on UK-registered aircraft or over UK territory), providing that the handsets comply with the GSM standards and operate in the 1,800MHz band. Practically speaking, this meant that only 2G services could be used with MCA.

Further to a decision made by the European Commission to permit access to 3G (UMTS 2100) and 4G technologies (LTE 1800) on board aircraft, which all member states are required to implement by 12 May 2014, Ofcom has now consulted on regulations that would extend the current exemption to the use of 3G and 4G technologies.

This exemption relates only to the use of handsets connected to an MCA. MCA systems consist of an on-board pico-cell basestation and an on-board network control unit (NCU). The NCU is used to prevent handsets within the aircraft from connecting to or interfering with ground-based basestations and to ensure that they only connect to the basestation on the aircraft…

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