Stakeholders hopeful FCC opens discussion on in-flight cell use

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Several in-flight connectivity stakeholders are hopeful the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the FAA will open the discussion about overturning their bans on the airborne usage of cell phones.

At present, FAA and FCC regulations require that cellular handsets be turned off once an aircraft leaves the ground. The FCC issued a notice of proposed rulemaking in 2005 to overturn this ban, but consumer groups and flight attendant unions strongly objected. In 2007, the FCC terminated its proceeding on the in-flight use of cellular telephones.

However, a more permanent federal ban is moving its way through Congress. The US House of Representatives recently passed FAA Reauthorization legislation that includes an amendment to formally ban the in-flight use of wireless devices for voice communications in the USA.

AeroMobile
 © AeroMobile

Lawmakers who support the bill argue that the US public does not want to be subjected to people talking on their cell phones during flight.

The Senate is now working on its own version of the bill. Should lawmakers opt to keep the House amendment, a permanent federal ban of in-flight cell phone use will be in place in the USA.

As the amendment is considered by Senators, members of the Inflight Passenger Communications Coalition (IPCC), including AeroMobile, OnAir and Panasonic, "are hoping the FCC and FAA will consider a parallel process while we deal with a proposed ban", says OnAir chief regulatory officer Asbjorn Christoffersen.

He adds: "We are also hopeful that US airlines will start expressing some desire to deploy the service so that we can get the ball rolling."

Christoffersen says 1,000,000 passengers are being exposed to OnAir's mobile connectivity solution each month and "no passenger has gone out there and said this service is not desirable".

"We haven't heard any issues at all. On the contrary, passengers expect to do SMS, email and the odd phone call. It really is not that big a thing. It's business as usual. There is really no reason to prevent US airlines from operating this service."