Passengers flying over the European Union (EU) will be able to use the internet and check their emails from their cellphones, according to new rules adopted by lawmakers on Thursday, in a flurry of regulation that could pave the way for mobile calls to be made mid-air.
The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, gave the green light for 3G and 4G services to be used on aircrafts flying over the EU at an altitude above 3,000 meters.
The move comes a day after European Aviation Safety Agency, following the lead of U.S. aviation regulators, announced its intention to publish rules that could allow passengers to use personal devices such as laptops, providing they are on "airplane mode".
But rather than heralding a new era of mobile communications, most analysts said it was very unlikely that airlines and mobile telecoms companies will immediately want to pay out for the new technology.
Ian Fogg, head of mobile analysis at IHS Electronics and Media, said that many planes already offer Wi-Fi and may be reluctant to install the new technology needed to support 3G and 4G.