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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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By alifbaa on 4/4/2007 8:00:00 PM , Rating: 2
Most of those in-flight call services have been removed. The airlines found they weren't producing enough revenue to justify the costs in maintenance, weight, and licensing. The reason the FAA doesn't allow it is because they have a rule stating that scheduled airline flights must prohibit the use of portable transmission devices while the aircraft is in flight. In reality, cell phones have only ever been proven to cause problems with instrumentation removed from the aircraft and taken out of its EMI shielding container. What's more, the literally hundreds of different EMI producing devices all over an aircraft have never been tested for interference yet are allowed to operate whenever and however they want to. Think, for instance, about the radar. On my plane, we have a 1500watt radar mounted 3 feet in front of the cockpit, right next to where the navigation radio tuners are mounted. It operates on a frequency far closer to navigation and communication radio frequencies at an infinitely higher power and was never tested for interoperability with anything else on the aircraft. It doesn't cause a problem because the tuners are shielded.

The reason the FAA doesn't allow cell phones is because they are too bureaucratic and lazy not to.


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