European Union regulators approve in-flight mobile phone use

It is officially starting to happen — this morning, EU authorities approved the use of cell phone calls in flight, thus opening the floodgates for widespread mobile phone service and development on all European carriers.

You may recall that last month Emirates, the Dubai based luxury carrier boasted the first cruising-altitude mobile service on their aircraft and that several carriers in the United States are tinkering with the same technology. The difference in these cases is that by and large these services are limited to particular flights and routes.

These new rules applied in the EU essentially let any carrier develop and implement any technology to their liking. So you can expect several carriers to come up with several different means of communicating over the course of the year. It also means, however, that the airlines will have authority over the service. Your mobile signal will come from the aircraft, so the crew will have the ability to restrict or remove service at their discretion. And they will also have the ability to charge for it.

But at what rates? Will standard minute and roaming fees apply? Will the airlines charge extra for the privilege of crackberrying at 30,000 ft? There’s no official word on service and rates yet, but considering airlines are now charging to be nice to you, I wouldn’t doubt if we had to pay.

Either way, don’t expect your KLM flight to turn into a chatterbox immediately. Carriers need to integrate service at cruising altitude (ground towers usually don’t reach to 30,000 feet at 600MPH, especially if you’re over water) and unroll their own rules and regulations. Enjoy your silence while you have it.