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In-flight phoning: FCC snubs, Europe replies

Posted: 27 Mar 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:FCC? mobile phone services? in-flight phoning? radio spectrum?

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Kevin Martin told reporters on March 22 that his agency would give up looking into whether to approve the use of cellphones on airplanes. An opposite situation is under way in Europe, however, where regulatory agencies are working to pave the way for cellphone use on commercial aircraft.

"It's going through the approval process right now," said Charlie Pryor, a London-based spokesman for OnAir, a planned mobile phone service sponsored by European aircraft manufacturer Airbus. "We expect some decisions within a month."

The Europeans have been testing their system for months and Pryor said last week that certification is being reviewed by the European Aviation Regulatory Authority. Another process involves the use of radio spectrum, being studied by the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations. CEPT has been working to coordinate some 44 European nations so they can allocate spectrum for mobile phone service providers.

Efforts by U.S. firms to provide in-flight phoning and Internet access for e-mail services and Web browsing have thus far been unsuccessful. In the most publicized effort, Boeing dropped an ambitious effort after spending a reported $1 billion.

Commercial airline JetBlue and AirCell, a private group, have expressed interest in supplying in-flight connectivity, but their plans have been relatively dormant in recent months. Verizon Communications dropped its long-standing in-flight phoning recently.

One of the FCC's concerns is the potential for cellphones on airplanes to disrupt other radio communications, according to the New York Times. Martin was quoted there as saying: "The record was still unclear as to whether it would create interference, so at this time it doesn't make as much sense to go forward."

That should please the thousands of consumers who have sent messages to the FCC stating that they do not want cell phone service in airplanes or the annoying talking it could bring to flights.

-W. David Gardner
Information Week




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