In-Flight Cell Phone Calls Are Possibly In Your Near Future

Thursday, November 21, 2013 - 01:54 PM

The Wall Street Journal reports that the FCC plans to recommend that airline passengers be allowed to make phone calls from their cellphones during flights. 

The use of devices like Kindles and iPads on planes was only recently approved, and most people cheered that decision. After all, the basis of the ban was that the devices could interfere with the plane, which never seemed particularly scientifically founded.

But this is different. A future dystopia where planes are packed with air-pressure-deafened passengers loudly chattering seems like a dark one indeed. There's one silver lining, which is that if the proposal is implemented, it would just allow phone calls, the Journal explains that individual airlines could still decide what their phone call policies are. 

If adopted, the FCC's order would merely permit airlines to implement wireless technology on planes. It wouldn't require them to do so, and individual airlines would then decide whether to enable voice services on their flights. The FAA would still have to certify any new equipment

The technology to allow cellphone use on planes already exists and has been deployed internationally.

That said, CNN looked into our dark, phone-calls-in-the-sky future last year and found that the airlines seem eager to make this a reality. 

The CEO of AeroMobile, which provides mobile connectivity to Emirates, Virgin Atlantic and Malaysian Airlines planes, said 1,000 aircraft would be fitted with the company's systems over the next three years. Lufthansa, Etihad, Turkish Airlines, Cathay Pacific, SAS and Gulf Air will all launch in-flight mobile offerings in coming months, he said.

"We believe this is going to be standard in most airlines," said Pal Bjordal, AeroMobile CEO. "You will have connectivity in the air in the same way you have connectivity on the ground."

Airplanes aren't segmented well enough to allow the equivalent of Amtrak's quiet cars, which makes me curious to see how this'll resolve for people who don't want to be bothered. Are there enough customers who don't want non-emergency phone calls to justify some airlines selling silence as a feature? Or will the airlines charge so much for in-flight cell phone calls that this'll mostly be a non-issue? 


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