Cellphones Allowed On Airliners In Two Years?


In a couple of years, you could be happily chatting on your cell phone at 30,000 feet — or ready to throttle the guy in the next seat who natters away on the thing for the whole flight. Technology is coming to the rescue of one of the great telecommunications conundrums of the wireless age but airlines are wondering if the additional blood-pressure factor in the already tension-prone confines of the aluminum tube is worth the trouble. And it looks like American Airlines, which conducted a live test of the system with passengers in July, is ready to lead the charge. “A circle of mobility defines how people want to work and live today,” Monte Ford, a senior VP with the airline, told The New York Times. “But it’s critically important that this technology be utilized in the proper way.” The technology involves two innovative approaches to solving both the potential interference problems cell signals pose for airliner navigation systems and the fears that cellphone signals raining down from above will overwhelm the land-based transmitter system. Each aircraft would have its own cell site, turning the cabin into a hot spot. Aircell’s proposed system would transmit the signals to ground-based towers for distribution. Qualcomm proposes using satellites for collection and distribution of the signals. As daunting as the technical challenges might be, keeping the peace between the talkative and their seatmates might not be so easy and could result in segregated areas or time limits on calls. The American Airlines test revealed some of what might lie ahead. “The moment we gave out the cellphones, they all started yelling,” Ford told the Times.