Europe's authorities are racing into the 21st century when it comes to in-flight technology: Yesterday they announced that almost gate-to-gate use of gadgets was going to be permitted on aircraft, and today they revealed that airlines can now install their own in-plane LTE or 3G data networks to allow these devices to connect to the web.
Spectrum for 3G and 4G communications is now cleared for use above 3,000 meters, whereas before only 2G data was allowed on aircraft. But the EU is pointing out that this isn't a free for all—passengers cannot simply use their devices as they wish, and it's up to individual airlines to install the special network equipment. Separately, the European air safety authority is going to release new regulations about the use of data devices during takeoff and landing "by end of November."
The European Commission notes that "industry surveys indicate SMS and email are of greater interest to passengers than voice," so the in-plane networks will be data-only. That's music to the ears of anyone who feared this technology would turn aircraft into noisy phone call-filled tubes.