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back to article Phones on a Plane: FCC still says no

The FCC today called time on discussions to unban the use of cell phones onboard planes, prompting mass rejoicing from America's airline passengers. In a statement today, the FCC said that responses to its request for comment on the use of cellphones on airplanes provided "insufficient technical information" on whether …

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Anonymous Coward

Perfectly logical

This makes perfect sense given the speed and efficiency that we have come to know and expect from US corporate cellular and federal agencies. It is clear that the expense and difficulty of performing experiments to gain sufficient technical information on potential harm to terrestrial networks is far beyond the scope of and ability of the U.S. gubermint and cellcos.

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In a way thank you FCC

In some respects thankfuly the ban remains in place, as a frequent traverler it's is a joy to not be contactable for 2-12 hours also it is a joy not to hear somebody elses one way converstation, but on the flip side I will still have to wade through a mountain of Texts and VM and when checked in at the Hotel, emails but i guess it is a small price to pay for some P&Q, as much as I would like to be able to work on the go I can't have my cake and eat it. so i choose have the cake and eat it at the Hotel!!

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hospital payphones otoh

there was an anouncement today that the already excessive charges for patients' use of payphones are to be increased by 160% - so let's make the leap of faith that the physics of mobile phones make it impossible that using one will fry your neighbours pacemaker or interfere with a CAT scanner two floors away.

AndyD 8-)#

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Anonymous Coward

Unnecessary network traffic

When the phone is moving away from the area covered by one cell and entering the area covered by another cell the call is transferred to the second cell in order to avoid call termination when the phone gets outside the range of the first cell (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Handoff).

Imagine an airplane in a waiting loop over London. If 300 passengers had their phones switched on, the plane traveled at 400km/h and the range of a mobile cell was about 10km, this would result in 200 hand-offs per minute (400/10*300/60). Multiply this by the number of planes in the air at any one time and one can get an idea of the magnitude of un-necessary cell traffic which mobile operators would have to handle without being able to charge the user for it.

Each mobile phone cell has an upper limit on the number of calls and the amount of traffic it can handle. Once this limit is reached, additional traffic cannot be handled and results in dropped calls.

Hundreds of potential hand-offs can generate enough additional traffic volume to temporarily drive mobile phone cells to or above their maximum capacity, resulting in dropped calls or user's inability to initiate/receive a call.

The problem could be solved by installing additional cells and by upgrading existing ones but since mobile phone operators do not charge their users for hand-off traffic, there would be no financial benefit to these operators. And if it doesn't generate revenue, it makes no financial sense and consequently it won't be done.

Thus, I don't think that allowing airplane passengers to use their phones from airplanes is something which mobile phone operators are likely to endorse or encourage.

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Anonymous Coward

Some things to be cleared up...

Considering that generally the rule of "please switch off all electronic devices on landing approach", which includes sitting in a holding pattern, continues to apply, the above calculation in "Unnecessary network traffic" is irrelevant. If you get told to switch off your phone during approach, you SWITCH OFF YOUR PHONE!

And I have to agree with Andy who maintains that flights are an oasis for business people bombarded with email, phonecalls, texts and the like. Except... that oasis will only be perfect when you have noise cancelling earphones on and listening to your favourite music - drowning out screaming/whining kids, irrelevant conversations, and all the other bumf. Give me data calls, yes, but voice calls, no thank you.

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Handoffs and Brushoffs

"The problem could be solved by installing additional cells and by upgrading existing ones but since mobile phone operators do not charge their users for hand-off traffic, there would be no financial benefit to these operators."

Actually they do it by limiting the angle at which they'll accept signals - as a pilot who occasionally accidentally leaves his phone on (and I'm talking about slow-flying paragliders, not much faster aircraft), I can tell you you're very unlikely to connect more than say 2000ft above the ground.

One of the great unanswered questions of 9/11 is how the phone calls from United 93 are supposed to have been made - uninterrupted calls from much greater altitude on a day when many networks were understandably already maxxed out.

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Silver badge

9/11 - no mystery

'One of the great unanswered questions of 9/11 is how the phone calls from United 93 are supposed to have been made - uninterrupted calls from much greater altitude on a day when many networks were understandably already maxxed out.'

No mystery at all.

Whilst mobile phone circuits in the New York and Washington area were maxxed out by the huge amount of traffic. Fixed line and mobile circuits in Manhattan were destroyed when the towers collapsed. However, the majority of the American phone system remained in working - but very busy - condition. The calls from United 93 were routed from Pennsylvania on lines unaffected by the disasters.

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US/UK Mobile Systems

You appear to have missed the bit about the mobile system actively refusing connections from above. Does the US mobile system not do this? I'm yet to find anyone who can authoritatively comment (with references) on this one way or another. I can tell you from personal experience and that of many other pilots that the probability of those calls being completed in the UK from that height is extremely small.

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Silver badge

Handoff problem solved!

The handoff problem is easy to solve, Emirates already did it.

Emirates are installing small cells in some of their planes, they only support 5 simultanious connections at a time, and considering the hoops they have to go through to get it to the ground (IE satelite), you're looking at automatic high roaming charges.

But the days of "Hello, I'm on a plane, I said Plane!", are coming!.

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