Plan enables travelers to make, receive calls through onboard base station

April 8, MSNBC

BRUSSELS, Belgium - You can use your cell phone in the skies over Europe as early as this summer under new European Union rules — allowing travelers to stay in touch but also raising the cringe-inducing prospect of being stuck next to a chatterbox at 30,000 feet.

Announcing the guidelines Monday, EU officials said they expect several Europe-based airlines to move within the next few months to launch services, effectively making the 27-nation bloc the first region in the world to scrap bans on the use of cell phones in the sky.

They insisted that the new rules would not heighten the risk of terrorism or interfere with flight instruments, explaining the system, relying on European GSM technology, has been thoroughly tested and safeguards will be enacted against the terror threat.

The United States and many other countries ban the use of cell phones and other mobile devices in the air because of concern they could disrupt a plane's instruments.

Travelers expressed fears about another kind of disruption: Noisy passengers.

"If they use a mobile phone on long distance flights, it would be an inconvenience, especially at night," said train commuter Stein Smulders, from Halle, Belgium.

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