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
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.