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
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