Cingular Opposes Cell Phone Use On Planes

Operator says that, if the ban on in-flight calls is lifted, it will urge its customers to use data services such as e-mail and instant messaging instead of talking.
Cellular operator Cingular Wireless acknowledged Thursday that it has told the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that it opposes use of cell phones during flights.

The company lodged its opposition for two reasons. First, the company feared such systems could lead to interference for its subscribers on the ground and, second, it could annoy passengers.

"We believe there is a time a time and a place for wireless phone conversations, and seldom does that include the confines of an airplane flight," a Cingular spokesperson, Rochelle Cohen, said, quoting from the letter the company submitted to the FAA. The FAA and the FCC are considering relaxing the ban on cell phone use in airplanes.

Cingular told the FAA that it would encourage its customers to use data access for items such as checking e-mail and using instant messaging instead of talking, the newspaper reported. The letter called such action ""tap, not talk."

The company said it is responding to its customers who have complained about loud and incessant calling in other confined spaces such as trains and restaurants.

"This might seem counterintuitive, but we think it's in the best interest of consumers," Cohen said. She added that the company said it has a long-standing "Be Sensible" campaign to encourage safe and courteous use of wireless devices.

However, Cohen also said that the operator has another motive for opposing lifting the ban: The fear that it could lead to interference for its users on the ground. Third-party vendors are talking about providing the in-plane technology that would take the cellular signals and send them to the ground.

"The carrier on the ground must be the carrier to provide the service in the air," Cohen said. "Like others in the wireless industry, we're concerned that if the ban is lifted, it would create interference to networks on the ground. We've told the FCC we'd be OK with easing the ban only if we could protect our subscribers on the ground from interference.

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