Press Release
Press Release

FCC considers release of mobile phone use on board aircraft
FCC considers to permit use of mobile phones on board aircrafts
USA - May 30, 2005

A U.S. trade group representing wireless telephone service providers has asked the Federal Communication Commission to continue its ban on cell phone calls during airplane flights,
saying those calls could interfere with other wireless calls.

The Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA) on Thursday filed comments with the FCC saying the agency should hold off on its effort to approve the use of wireless phones during flights because no solution exists for the interference problem. In December, the FCC began a proceeding to consider allowing airborne wireless calls on 800-MHz phones, as long as such calls didn't interfere with ground-to-ground wireless traffic.

While CTIA sees demand from wireless customers who want to use cell phones on airplanes, the trade group also wants to protect the more than 180 million wireless phone users in the U.S. who spend most of their time on the ground, said Erin McGee, CTIA spokeswoman. "The main concern is, before we start putting cell phones on airplanes, let's make sure they don't do anything to existing service," she said.

But other groups that submitted comments before Thursday's electronic filing deadline in the FCC proceeding disagreed with the CTIA's analysis. Aircraft maker The Boeing Co. and aircraft telephone service provider AirCell Inc. offered comments saying the interference problem can be fixed through pico cell systems, which are specialized cellular base stations installed on board aircraft. Cellular handset maker LM Ericsson Telephone Co. filed comments saying that pico cells may offer several advantages, but the FCC shouldn't focus only on pico cell technology, as the agency did when it began the aircraft proceedings.

"The FCC need not mandate only a single, certain set of technologies to ensure that consumer handsets will not transmit in an unauthorized manner," wrote Ericsson lawyers. "Rather, the FCC should allow market forces to respond to consumer demands more freely."

The FCC proposed rulemaking had been expected to take a year or more, and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration would have to give its own approval before wireless phones could be used during flights. The FAA has banned the use of cell phones during flights because of potential interference with aircraft navigation and communication equipment.

In its FCC filing, the CTIA called for the restrictions to not be relaxed or removed until the FCC can demonstrate that in-flight calls wouldn't cause interference. The CTIA wants to work with the FCC on interference solutions, but the trade group isn't sure when the problem will be solved.

"I don't think anybody has a good idea of the time frame on this," McGee said.

Also filing comments were a number of flight attendants, mostly opposing cell phone use during flights.

The National Consumers League and the Association of Flight Attendants commissioned a survey conducted in March and April that found 63% of respondents preferring the cell phone ban be kept. Passengers don't want to be trapped in an airplane with loud phone calls happening all around them, and disruptive conversations could lead to incidents of air rage, the flight attendant group said.