The EC adopted two measures that will allow harmonized licensing, technology across EU states: The EC recommends that member states mutually recognize each other's licenses granted for in-flight mobile communications, which means that a firm or airline need apply to just one telecom/spectrum regulator to have permission to use the service throughout the EC. The EC's other measure details the technical requirements for the equipment--picocells--to be used on aircraft so that frequency licensing isn't in conflict between ground and in-flight operation.
Airworthiness is a separate measure that's been addressed by the European Aviation Safety Agency across the EU. The EC took this as an opportunity for push for pan-European telecom rules to avoid having to keep defining rules that have to be adopted across all member nations for pan-European services, like this and mobile satellite operation.
The very pro-consumer Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding, who already through force of will backed down European carriers to drop their cross-border roaming rates--later backed up by regulation--suggests that carriers think long and hard about the rates they charge for in-flight service. "However, if consumers receive shock phone bills, the service will not take-off," she said in an EC press release.
The social factors concerns are left to the airlines, with an implicit threat by the EC to keep on top of it. Reding said, "I also call on airlines and operators to create the right conditions on board aircraft to ensure that those who want to use in-flight communication services do not disturb other passengers."
The rules today affects phones that can use the 1800 MHz band (GSM 1800), which is estimated to cover phones used by 90 percent of European passengers--or is that 90 percent of travelers on European flights? Hard to know.
The picocells must not simply accept connections for 1800 MHz bands, but also prevent phones using 460 MHz, 900 MHz, and 2100 MHz from communicating with ground stations, which is a simple matter of providing a null carrier that associates with the phone yet provides it no path. No mentioned here is the 1700 MHz and 850 MHz frequencies used by GSM in the U.S., which one would expect would alos need to be blocked, even though quad-band GSM phones include the 1800 MHz band for use. Perhaps through automated selection that's not an issue.