FCC Says 'No' To Cell Phones On Airplanes, But Europe Says 'Yes' - InformationWeek

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FCC Says 'No' To Cell Phones On Airplanes, But Europe Says 'Yes'

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin told reporters that his agency would give up looking into whether to approve the use of cell phones on airplanes.

While the Federal Communications Commission is moving to kill the idea of cell phone service on commercial aircraft in the United States, European regulatory agencies remain positive on in-flight mobile phone calling.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin on Thursday told reporters that his agency would give up looking into whether to approve the use of cell phones on airplanes. An opposite situation is under way in Europe, however, where regulatory agencies are working to pave the way for cell phone use on commercial aircraft.

"It's going through the approval process right now," said Charlie Pryor, a London-based spokesman for OnAir, a planned mobile phone service sponsored by European aircraft manufacturer Airbus. "We expect some decisions within a month."

The Europeans have been testing their system for months and Pryor said Friday that certification is being reviewed by the European Aviation Regulatory Authority. Another process involves the use of radio spectrum, being studied by the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations. CEPT has been working to coordinate some 44 European nations so they can allocate spectrum for mobile phone service providers.

Efforts by U.S. firms to provide in-flight phoning and Internet access for e-mail services and Web browsing have thus far been unsuccessful. In the most publicized effort, Boeing dropped an ambitious effort after spending a reported $1 billion.

Commercial airline JetBlue and AirCell, a private group, have expressed interest in supplying in-flight connectivity, but their plans have been relatively dormant in recent months. Verizon Communications dropped its long-standing in-flight phoning recently.

One of the FCC's concerns is the potential for cell phones on airplanes to disrupt other radio communications, according to the New York Times. Chairman Martin is quoted there as saying: "The record was still unclear as to whether it would create interference, so at this time it doesn't make as much sense to go forward."

That should please the thousands of consumers who have sent messages to the FCC stating that they do not want cell phone service in airplanes or the annoying talking it could bring to flights.

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