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4/6/2007
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FCC Says "No" To Phones On Planes

Wi-Fi group is ready to provide in-flight Internet access.

After more than two years of debate, the Federal Communications Commission said no last week to allowing cell phones on airplanes. But the FCC didn't close the door on in-flight Net access, and the Wi-Fi Alliance is ready to jump into the airborne wireless vacuum.

Public demand and wireless technology improvements will spur the development of in-flight Wi-Fi, says Karen Hanley, marketing director at the 300-member Wi-Fi Alliance. A combination of satellite and terrestrial cell towers will likely deliver Wi-Fi data services to aircraft, she says.

In shutting down discussion of cell phone use on planes, the FCC said there was "insufficient technical information" on whether their use could interfere with terrestrial networks. It may reconsider the issue later if "appropriate technical data" becomes available.

In addition to concerns about network interference, the FCC has received thousands of messages from consumers who don't want phones on planes because they don't want to put up with the chatter. That's an issue that still must be resolved, Hanley says. She and the Wi-Fi Alliance are interested in a resolution since once Wi-Fi data services get airborne, it opens up the possibility of Wi-Fi voice services.

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