5G in-flight: EU scraps the need for Airplane Mode from 2023

If you're flying in Europe next year, you won't need to switch to Airplane Mode for takeoff

Airplane mode
(Image credit: Getty)

Long flights are exactly the time when you really want to stream a new show or album, but unless you've downloaded it in advance you're usually out of luck. While some flights offer Wi-Fi it's often slow, expensive and doesn't allow streaming. 

Luckily accessing your data when in the air is all about to change, at least in Europe. The European Commission is ruled that 5G technology can now be used onboard planes, allowing passengers to access their data at top speed. No more Airplane Mode!

According to the BBC (opens in new tab), the frequencies of 5G across Europe and the UK have lower power than those used in the US. While there was concern that 5G signals could interfere with automatic flight control systems in the US, that's not the case for European bandwidths. This does mean that while you will be able to use your phone when flying across Europe, you'll still be asked to switch off on transatlantic flights – for now at least. 

Opening up these 5G channels to use in the air means that passengers could be able to connect to towers directly on the ground, rather than relying on a satellite link in between. Hopefully, there will still be sensible restrictions on making voice and video calls in the air to stop the flight from getting noisy, but being able to stream is a huge bonus. 

The only downside of course is that if you're travelling for work, you will now be contactable throughout your journey. I might need to come up with a new excuse for why I can't answer that email straight away. 

Mat Gallagher

As T3's Editor-in-Chief, Mat has his finger on the pulse for the latest advances in technology. He has written about technology since 2003 and after stints in Beijing, Hong Kong and Chicago is now based in the UK. He’s a true lover of gadgets, but especially anything that involves cameras, Apple, electric cars, musical instruments or travel.