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The FCC has terminated its proposal inquiry to relax cell phone ban laws, but FAA regulations still run the show anyway

In December 2004 the Federal Communications Commission launched an inquiry to rescind or relax its ban on 800MHz-band cellular phones aboard in-flight aircraft.  In addition to lifting the ban, the study also investigated the feasibility of using pico-cells and other technology to boost coverage in-flight communication via mobile devices.

In a release today, the FCC announced it has terminated the 2004 study (PDF).  Some aspects of the study, such as technical solutions to physically allow cellular phones to function on aircraft, were deemed a success.  The FCC states that its advisory arm has conducted extensive research into the hazards of in-flight usages, with potential solutions as well.  These findings will be published by mid-2007.

However, even if the FCC were to reverse its ban, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration still has a long standing policy prohibiting usage of transmitting electronics in-flight.  While the FCC's in-flight ban is largely credited to air-to-ground interference, the FAA's ban on cell phones is due to the hazard of air-to-air and in-cabin interference.

The FAA's mobile device guidelines at least partially influenced the FCC's decision to abandon its exploratory research.  "The Commission also noted that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) prohibits the use of portable electronic devices (PEDs) on airborne aircraft," the FCC stated. "Given the lack of technical information in the record upon which we may base a decision, we have determined at this time that this proceeding should be terminated."

There is still a loophole in the FCC and FAA bans.  Aircraft-specific services, like Connexion, may operate under the spectrums allocated by the two agencies.



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RE: HUH????
By defter on 4/4/2007 5:39:55 AM , Rating: 2
It's quite funny how Wifi operating at 2.4GHz is completely safe for aircrafts, but cell phones operating at almost the same frequency (e.g. 3G phones use 2.1GHz) are veeeery dangerous...


RE: HUH????
By yacoub on 4/4/2007 6:59:45 AM , Rating: 3
That's because "dangerous" to them equates to "the service would be poor and calls more likely to be dropped, and the call would be jumping from cell site to cell site too quickly for our nodes to handle and thus might screw up billing." (The billing issue being the part they care most about.)


RE: HUH????
By stromgald on 4/4/2007 11:52:07 AM , Rating: 4
It's also important to note that cell phones aren't banned from civil aviation where the phone and its signals would be right in the cockpit. The electronics are probably less shielded in the Cessnas and Pipers also. In reality, there's no technical reason not to use cell phones or pagers on board aircraft. It's more human issues.


RE: HUH????
By Ringold on 4/4/2007 3:42:48 PM , Rating: 2
My own cell phone isn't bad, thankfully, but other people with various models that I've taken flying with me in Cessna's have caused some noise interference on the radio that can't be squelched out.

That's about all I've noticed, though. Then again, some things, like a slight GPS error, VOR or NDB error, or the likes would be impossible to notice in small amounts, but 'small amounts' and a fuzzy radio shouldn't take a plane with a competent pilot out of the sky. I agree, it's a human issue as much as anything, though the fact that it does cause some minor problems may have the FAA erring on the side of caution I suppose.


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