The disparity between Europe and the USA's regulatory progress in permitting use of cellular telephones in flight has become even more glaring following a move by the head of the US Federal Communications Commission to maintain the ban on these services.

FCC chairman Kevin Martin is recommending other commissioners to vote to terminate a notice of proposed rulemaking and leave existing rules in place. This contrasts with a decision in December by European telecom authorities to back a regulatory framework of mutual recognition, one of the requirements needed before mobile phones can be used aboard commercial aircraft.

Martin cites concerns from the wireless telecommunications industry that in-flight cell phone use will interfere with calls on the ground. But it's not clear if this argument holds water. Addressing the same concern, the pan-European communications regulatory body CEPT has stipulated minimum operational altitude of 10,000ft (3,000m) before cell phones can be switched on.

Certain regulatory hurdles must still be overcome in Europe, but its lead is clearly established. To that end, the CEPT framework is now being used as a guideline for regulators in Asia and the Middle East. The USA, it seems, is ready to take a "wait and see" approach before making any substantial change.

Source: Flight International