Help Print this page 

Summaries of EU Legislation

Title and reference
Safe use of mobile phones on aircraft

Summaries of EU legislation: direct access to the main summaries page.
Languages and formats available
Multilingual display
Text

Safe use of mobile phones on aircraft

 

SUMMARY OF:

Decision 2008/294/EC — conditions of spectrum use for the operation of mobile communication services on aircraft (MCA services)

WHAT IS THE AIM OF THIS DECISION?

  • It establishes common rules for the safe use of mobile phones on aircraft (MCA services) to allow air passengers to make calls and send and receive messages (GSM mode) while they are flying over Europe.
  • It has subsequently been amended by Decision 2013/654/EU to also allow passengers’ mobile devices to connect to the aircraft receiver/transmitter via 3G and 4G mobile telecommunication technology. This allows the use of broadband services, such as internet access, on MCA-equipped aircraft.

KEY POINTS

The general framework for the use of mobile phones on aircraft depends on two factors:

The licence delivered by one country concerning the conformity of the MCA equipment will be valid in all EU countries. This will allow the uninterrupted provision of MCA services to air passengers over the whole EU territory.

Scope

  • This decision only concerns the technical requirements needed for the connection between passengers’ own mobile devices and the aircraft receiver/transmitter which is installed inside the passenger cabin.
  • It does not regulate how the signal is transmitted between the aircraft and the ground nor any licensing, commercial or aeronautical issue.
  • The installation of an MCA system is needed only if the airline intends to provide MCA services to its passengers. In such a case the airline can decide whether, for passengers’ comfort and privacy, to allow only data services or also voice calls.

Operation

  • Passengers’ mobile devices are linked to an on-board cellular network (aircraft base transceiver station), which in turn is in communication with the earth, typically by satellite.
  • In order to prevent air passengers’ phones from creating interference with terrestrial radio communication networks, the system can be activated only when the aircraft is above 3,000m/10,000ft of altitude.
  • Between ground level and 3,000m, the mobile terminals must be kept in flight mode.
  • Above 3,000m, the crew will inform passengers in MCA-equipped aircraft that they can switch to the ‘normal’ mode and make and receive calls, etc. as they would on the ground.
  • The roaming service is provided at a fee which is decided by the airline and/or the telecommunication service provider and is beyond the scope of this decision.

Safety

Before being allowed to be installed on board an aircraft, each component must receive an airworthiness certification delivered by the European Aviation Safety Agency. Therefore, the MCA system is safe from the aeronautical point of view.

EU countries may impose technical restrictions in order to prevent interference and other disturbances of the terrestrial telecommunication networks by signals emitted to and from air passengers’ mobile devices.

FROM WHEN DOES THE DECISION APPLY?

It applies from 7 April 2008.

BACKGROUND

For more information, see:

ACT

Commission Decision 2008/294/EC of 7 April 2008 on harmonised conditions of spectrum use for the operation of mobile communication services on aircraft (MCA services) in the Community (OJ L 98, 10.4.2008, pp. 19–23)

Successive amendments to Decision 2008/294/EC have been incorporated in to the original document. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.

RELATED ACTS

Commission Recommendation of 7 April 2008 on authorisation of mobile communication services on aircraft (MCA services) in the European Community (notified under document number C(2008) 1257) (OJ L 98, 10.4.2008, pp. 24–27)

last update 28.06.2016

Top