Insights Ofcom consults on localised mobile communication services on aircraft


Ofcom is consulting on plans to make new regulations that would enable airline passengers to use mobile devices, with 2G, 3G and 4G technologies, on-board aircraft, without the need for a wireless telegraphy licence, if certain standards and requirements are met.

The plans would mean that passengers could use their devices without causing interference to land mobile networks. Passengers would connect to an aircraft base transceiver station and the network control unit would ensure that Universal Mobile Telecommunications Service networks in the 900 MHz and 2100 MHz frequency bands would not be interfered with.

The system effectively replicates, on an aircraft, the operation of a land base station. It is intended to implement the European Commission decision of December 2016 on simplifying the operation of mobile communications on board aircraft in the EU. These regulations will replace similar exemption regulations Ofcom made in 2014.

To give proper effect to the European Commission decision, it is also necessary to vary aircraft radio wireless telegraphy licences in order to ensure operators comply with certain new technical and operational requirements. This will be implemented through a Notice of Variation to the aircraft licence, a draft of which Ofcom has included in the consultation document for information only.

The deadline for responses to the consultation is 12 May 2017. To access the consultation, click here.