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In-Flight VOIP Coming Soon

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the i-am-talking-to-you-from-the-skies dept.

110

hdtv writes "U.S. airline customers are likely to be thrilled with an opportunity to sit next to someone constantly chatting on the phone. Information Week magazine is reporting that government auction is opening a way for telecoms to introduce voice-over-IP links on in-flight communication systems." From the article: "Airfone already offers phone service on many flights, but its high cost has limited its use. JetBlue has declined to say what its LiveTV LCC unit would do with a winning frequency. Although many frequent flyers and airline attendants favor a ban on the phone chatter, Connexion by Boeing, whose Internet service is already offered on nearly 200 international flights a day, notes that there have been no complaints of in-cabin incidents about the technology. The Connexion service is regularly used by passengers to make VoIP calls. "

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danger? (1)

joe 155 (937621) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329007)

whenever I fly I always get told that I can't have wifi on on my laptop, nor can I use a mobile phone, and I think they even frown upon using gameboys on take-off. Isn't is danerous to have an internet connection on a plane? can it not interfere with the machinary? They don't let you use mobile phones in hospital because of the danger to heart machines; surely this is just as important; or is this just because I'm not american and you don't have the same concerns as us

Re:danger? (1)

apollosfire (954290) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329024)

The airlines must've found away around the interference, otherwise they're endangering their customers [wikipedia.org] ..

Re:danger? (1)

che.kai-jei (686930) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329025)

my good man, you are indeed a buffoon!

its usually about approriate technology you can charge for.

cellular? maybe the aggregate effect of 1000 handsets trying to get a signal being too far away from cell tower will be bad, i od not know.

but a few laptops usinga local AP on the plane? fuck all.

short answer? (1)

macadamia_harold (947445) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329043)

Isn't is danerous to have an internet connection on a plane?

no. [itworld.com]

Re:danger? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15329044)

(I'll ignore the "Are Americans careless?" faux-question in your post.)
Most likely the original ban on wireless devices is simply to be conservative. The aviation control electronics on the plane should be well-shielded anyway, but banning all radio is easier than testing all the various devices out there. Now that WiFi is pretty well established, they have decided to actually verify it does not interfere.

Of course, given the volume of flights, there are probably hundreds of people with cell phones and wifi devices accidentally enabled in the air each day. So clearly at low levels it is not a problem. There are some nagivational uses of radio when landing, but that's protected by having everyone turn everything off during descent.

Re:danger? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15329134)

> I'll ignore the "Are Americans careless?" faux-question in your post
Defensive much? That's not what he said at all...

Re:danger? (4, Informative)

Achromatic1978 (916097) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329085)

They don't let you use mobile phones in hospital because of the danger to heart machines

While this may have been an issue with older medical equipment and first- and second-generation mobile phones, it's certainly not the reasoning nowadays. People are just more likely to pay attention to "may interfere with equipment" than "show some damn courtesy to the people who are around you". Go to the hospital cafeteria, or the lounge in the ward - no-one will complain about your phone usage there.

I use my 3 month old phone... (2, Informative)

YesIAmAScript (886271) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329748)

If I pull my 3 month old phone out of my pocket here and go to the web, it makes the speakers 3 feet from me buzz (and yes, I know why, don't need to explain it to me).

TDMA (GSM) phones put out a lost of electromagnetic hash. If the tower tells the phone to use a high power setting and the phone obliges, it could easily mess up equipment that measures small currents (like an EKG).

And that's with a modern phone. This won't go away or even get better until GSM (and other TDMA techs) go by the wayside. Which doesn't appear like it will be soon.

Re:danger? (5, Informative)

terrymark (768454) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329095)

I have been personally involved in wifi certifications in aircraft. I have never seen any interference with navigation systems. I attribute this to the low rf levels of wifi. Not so with cell phones, their much higher transmit levels can cause all kinds of havoc with communication/navigation. I have seen cell phone use in the cockpit (of corporate jets) cause the cockpit audio to go nuts. The upcoming certification of cell phones in the air all center around "picocells", which force the cell phones to transmit at lower power by associating with the on-board picocell and not with on-the-ground cell towers. I am doubtful that picocells will actually get certified, as it all hinges around sucessfully keeping the cell phone's power at a minimum, which may be very difficult in practice.

Re:danger? (2, Insightful)

senatorpjt (709879) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329407)

In that case, if terrorists want to crash a plane, why don't they just turn their phones on?

Re:danger? (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 8 years ago | (#15330342)

Because there's a pilot who can fly the plane without instruments if he has to. He doesn't want to though, because it makes it more likely something will go wrong. Especially if ALL the planes have malfunctioning instruments.

Re:danger? (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 8 years ago | (#15331349)

In that case, if terrorists want to crash a plane, why don't they just turn their phones on?

Cell phone emission will affect two things: Communication and navigation, it won't affect the operation of the plane and the rest that is wired. While fairly important, the sky is pretty big and there's "air corridors" they travel in which means there's rarely any immidiate danger. Even if flying completely blind, particularly if air traffic control will redirect planes to avoid you. To literally crash it you would need an EMP bomb strong enough to fry the electronics.

Re:danger? (1)

Professor_UNIX (867045) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329506)

I have been personally involved in wifi certifications in aircraft. I have never seen any interference with navigation systems.

Who says the system has to be WiFi? They could just put plugs on the back of every seat. It's not like people roam around aircraft much... at least not on the cattle-car flights I flew on in coach class.

Re:danger? (2, Interesting)

nsayer (86181) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329626)

RFI is not the reason cell phones are banned on airplanes. It's nothing to do with the FAA. It's against FCC regulations because the cellphone up in the air is visible to way too many cell towers and thus causes excessive interference. A pico-cell in the plane, as you said, fixes all that by forcing the phones to work at extremely low power. But unless they put a pico cell in for every carrier, it's going to make enforcement a problem. How are the baliffs^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hstewards going to know whether someone on a cell phone is legally using the plane's picocell or not?

I was on SouthWest about 6 months ago. Before we took off, I put my phone in airplane mode so that when we got up to cruising altitude I could play games on it. I then turned it off. The plane took off and got up to cruising altitude and when they said you could bring out your portable electronics, I fired it up and was immediately accosted. I explained that I had put the phone in airplane mode and that its transmitter was disabled. They said, "We don't recognize airplane modes. Turn it off." With a grumble, I did so. Meanwhile, the bozo three rows up pulls out his treo and starts using it. I don't know whether he had his in airplane mode or not. But he got a pass. I effectively got shat on because of the shape of my computer.

Re:danger? (1)

traveller604 (961720) | more than 8 years ago | (#15330832)

I have seen cell phone use in the cockpit (of corporate jets) cause the cockpit audio to go nuts. In flight? And there I was thinking that there's no freaking way that cell phones work in 10km altitude..

Re:danger? (1)

Phil Karn (14620) | more than 8 years ago | (#15332918)

I can't speak to GSM (they're the competition), but power control in CDMA works very well, thank you. In fact, CDMA can't work without it.

In early field testing of CDMA, I noticed that the transmit power from our CDMA mobile fell below the received power from the base station whenever we passed by it on the other side of the San Diego River, a distance of about 400 meters according to Google Earth. Both receive and transmit powers were in the low microwatt range. My standard joke in a customer demo was that we were working on a phone that would run on the incoming RF power from the base station.

So you can be confident that the power levels in a picocell installation on an airplane will be very low.

Disclaimer: in case it's not obvious, I work for Qualcomm.

Mythbusters (Episode 49) (2, Informative)

KingSkippus (799657) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329141)

Mythbusters [discovery.com] actually tackled this one not too long ago (episode 49). If I recall correctly, the final verdict was "Plausable." On most modern jets, the electronics and navigation equipment are shielded, so cell phones and electronics won't interfere. They showed that by taking a device that simulated cell phone frequencies and cranked it up on a private jet on the ground, and the avionics didn't even blink.

But when the wiring wasn't shielded, some of the devices did move the needles, which could cause an issue on some older (or presumably cheaper) airplanes. Also, since you never really know what frequencies devices may start using tomorrow or what kind of output they'll have, the airlines probably decided to ban all electronics just in case.

Frankly, I don't blame them. I'd rather them err on the side of their planes not falling out of the sky.

However, if they use their own equipment (or, in the case of wi-fi, equipment whose frequencies are known) that is well-tested and verified not to interfere with the avionics, I don't see any reason for them not to install it and use it. Will they charge for it? Of course! They have to recoup the cost of testing and installation, plus some of that equipment is specially designed to be used in the air, not just your cheap Linksys router from Newegg.com. And yes, of course, they want to make some money off of it too. Blame relatively cheap air fares or chalk it up to greed, but I don't see anything wrong with it. If you don't want to pay for it, just don't use it.

Oh, by the way, I wouldn't try to get around this rule if I were you. If I recall correctly, doing so is a felony offense.

Re:Mythbusters (Episode 49) (1)

EvanED (569694) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329644)

Don't go around strutting Mythbusters as good proof of anything. It's good TV, and you can learn a lot from it, but as far as scientific conclusions go it's usually pretty bad.

(One egregious example -- which is a pity because it's something that would actually be useful to know -- was when they were testing gas mileage of windows down vs. A/C. They "busted" the myth that a/c is more efficient then decreasing the aerodynamics of your car. But they did so by running the a/c at it's highest setting, causing whoever was driving it to comment on being cold despite wearing a hat, scarf, and gloves! Yeah, real useful result guys. It would have also been nice to test it on a car that was also aerodynamic already instead of a SUV.)

I'd personally be surprised if a cell phone would cause interference in anything but the dinkiest of sport planes, and if you're in one of them there's a good chance you're flying VFR anyway. But it is a somewhat reasonable concern -- when I had a cell phone (I dropped coverage for a while) I could always tell it was going to ring because my speakers would make a popping noise and (if I had it on) my TV would go staticy. Phones DO cause quite a bit of interference to things that aren't shielded.

Re:danger? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15329351)

Some mobile phone frequencies can in exeptional situations such as the screen on the outer cable becoming badly degraded leaving the signal carrying wire exposed. the risk of this happening is very low, and the number of phones which operate in this frequency is small but if they were to allow the use of mobiles, the aero space companies would have to test all of the electical systems on all of their planes everytime a new mobile phone came out. i guess if the system is built in to the plane it is easier to prevent it interfering with other systems.

Re:danger? (1)

Red Alastor (742410) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329576)

whenever I fly I always get told that I can't have wifi on on my laptop, nor can I use a mobile phone, and I think they even frown upon using gameboys on take-off.
Gameboys don't emit any kind of wave dangerous for the plane. They just want you to be able to pay attention to the security routine.

Re:danger? (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 8 years ago | (#15330359)

They also don't want game boys flying around the cabin if something does go wrong during the two most dangerous phases of the flight. Thus the regulation that such things must be not only turned off, but stowed.

Re:danger? Possbile bullshit... (1)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 8 years ago | (#15330560)

I know of someone who on various planes and with various airliners ran a Sony camcorder during takeoff AND during landing. The plane didn't crash. The pilot never announced any dangers. The plane didn't weave or bob or sideslip any of the runways. Nothing of significance came about. No flight attendants perused the aisles. We all know someone who gets on the phone as SOON as the plane lands, or someone who is texting or trying to talk or play a handheld game until the LAST minute. I don't really worry. I say if commercial electronics that sprung out of a lot of military research and commercial competitive and dense FCC spectrum allocations can't take off or land in the same or general signals that are present in every major city (TV, Radio, emergency, construction, walkie-talkie, cellular, CB, Ham and other radio signals, the phooey on THEM for not shielding the wiring harnesses and control signals... What the hell would the pilots do if some hobbyist set off an intense electromagnetic burst near their local airport and a plane were landing? Sure, the FCC MIGHT localize and find it, but from general EM sources, NO plane should be crashing short of a cosmic or nuke EMP burst!

I once went to the cockpit before takeoff and asked the pilots (back in 1995 or 1996) about how high over San Jose, or at least how many seconds after wheels depart the ground I needed to wait to use my own camcorder after takeoff. He said about 45 seconds, and then after some right-bank we make, we're clear. I eagerly and carefully counted the seconds. I got my footage, or at least shot footage.

Now, I've become quite cynical in life and am not afraid to say what's on my mind. I have a friend who is a co-pilot of a Japanese airline. I asked him about some stuff. He's had a few close calls in the air, but not related to passenger personal electronic equipment in the cabin. I myself feel the planes are already sufficiently hardened from errant commercial gear. I don't buy the line that electronics can crash the plane or interfere with the landing aides signals the plane relies upon during automatic/autopilot landings and other events.

So, I told my friend what I think. The airlines just don't want passengers shooting film and video during critical evolutions: landings and takeoffs. IF the plane crashes in those regimes, it's possible the recorders they don't OWN will get into the hands of someone who might give it to the NEWS. The airlines control the black boxes, and I gather (from watching shows and reading things) they are encrypted and require special devices to pull out the information. But, a HandyCam with spectacular crash footage, yelling, moaning, crying, kicking with all their might the seats in front of them, pounding the armrests in futility, whimpering and simpering, and cussing and shitl flying about before g-forces takes over would NOT be what ANY airline or traffic safety board wants in the hands of the public. He mildly laughed, but kinda, sorta emoted in body language "Yeh, they wouldn't want that footage in public..."

But, my feeling is: we go when we go. I want to SEE such footage if it exists. We see all kinds of rapes, eviscerations, beheadings, and more in Hollywood, but for some reason, the plight of REAL people is regarded as so reverent they grieving survivors of the crash victims "deserve" some privacy and respect. Well, I buy a part of that, but I don't give a rat about the possiblity of air travel dollars being lost because genuine footage got to the public. If they are so concerned, they should just ban the presence of such equipment IN THE CABIN and do something about the lousy and persistent theft or pilfering or excessive invasion of luggage that is checked into the lower compartment.

Things that I DID experience as frightening (but, still kind of puts a smile on my face, so much so that I have had to hide my face betewen the cabin and the seat in front, are:

-high g-turns after takeoff-- I just wish we'd turn HARDER sometimes, but that would upset many PAX, and might spill or shake up the as-yet-unserved food too much

- thunderous shock and boom from a hard landing (once, on Air France, we landed in Vietnam, and the 747 hit the ground so hard I thought the gear was surely going to collapse-- it was the hardest, loudest, most shock-filled landing I'd ever experienced, and the brakes were overwhelmingly loud into the cabin, vibrading and squealing, but eventually we stopped...)

REALLY scary:

- Once on the way back from Portland, on Southwest Airlines (I think) we started hit some VERYbad weather in around Feb 8 1998 over northern Calif. It progressively worsened into San Jose. It was so bad I thought the friggin' WINGS would come off, flapping, shaking... the plane buffetting and vibrating like a MOTHERF*cker. We dropped altitude a few times. I for ONCE thoug this is my last day on/above Earth. Finally, the cabin attendants decided at once to start cheery sing-songs, bounding around the cabin, passing out extra drinks and such. It was in some ways bizarre, hilarious, and almost revealing in that I wondered if they thought "this is it... this is IT..."

We got to SJC, and the sky was so wet and gray NOTHING could be clearly made out. I hoped we wouldn't strike Hwy 17 (in inclement weather, SJC landings usually are southbound instead of clear-weather northbout landings). When we fully braked and were sure the taxi to the terminal was under full pilot control, everyone hooted, hollered, CLAPPED, hugged people NEXT to them... It was eerie and funny. I don't recall seeing ANYTHING like that in a movie...

So BRING ON the phones. Channel the sigs thru a "special transceiver unit", continue to contrive and make up apologies and excuses as to why THEIR (money-making) phones are safe, but not the private phones. Anything to make a buck, maybe.

Really?? (4, Informative)

datafr0g (831498) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329021)

Connexion by Boeing, whose Internet service is already offered on nearly 200 international flights a day, notes that there have been no complaints of in-cabin incidents about the technology. The Connexion service is regularly used by passengers to make VoIP calls.

Really??
I tried the wireless Boeing Connexion service on a flight from Singapore to Australia late last year. Ping times at best were around 2000ms and often I lost connection completely - needless to say - no way would VoIP work with those conditions.

Has anyone had any luck with this service and if so, where abouts or is this just marketing hype?

Re:Really?? (1)

remembertomorrow (959064) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329079)

Australia isn't know for fast or reliable internet, unfortunately. I don't know about Singapore. :|

Re:Really?? (1)

AaronLawrence (600990) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329080)

Worked much better that that for me - much like an average ground-based wifi connection. I was using ICQ and didn't notice much extra delay. That was probably somewhere over Asia also.

Re:Really?? (1)

Achromatic1978 (916097) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329103)

I'm not surprised, though they should have had better information about coverage - Australia is not covered by ground antennas and such (Connexion uses a combination of Ku-band antennas and satellite), and thus your service would have been going via satellite shortly after leaving Asia.

Re:Really?? (3, Informative)

terrymark (768454) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329105)

I have been involved with data terminal installations in corporate aircraft, using the 64K service offered by Inmarsat. Ping times are typically 850-1000ms, which is just over the physical limit imposed by geo satellites. Not really sure why you were seing such high latency with Connexion. The new service being auctioned now by the FCC will be a ground-based system, so latency will be much lower.

Ping times via satellite (1)

Anonymous Cowhead (95009) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329313)

...using the 64K service offered by Inmarsat. Ping times are typically 850-1000ms, which is just over the physical limit imposed by geo satellites

The round-trip delay due to the speed of light for the geosynchronous satellites used by Inmarsat is at most ~500ms. The extra 350-500ms is caused by Inmarsat processing delays.

Not really sure why you were seing such high latency with Connexion.

I'm guessing they were having a bad day, or there are places in the world they don't route well to. Measurements of Connexion's system on various flights seems to indicate a typical round trip delay of ~700ms. (I seem to recall a figure as low as 650.)

For interactive network usage (anything other than file transfer) latency is critical, and that extra 150-300ms in Inmarsat's system makes it marginal at best. I'm sure the corporate users you speak of think the service is acceptable, but they're comparing that to not being connected at all.

Note: I do not work for Connexion, never have, and probably never will.

Re:Really?? (2, Interesting)

dean.collins (862044) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329133)

well I can tell you for a fact that the connection times on lufthansa work great, we have no only run a voip call from their USA/Europe but also ran a video conference on our in house FMS based video conference server.

I think there is even a screen shot of it on the http://www.unisona.com/ [unisona.com] website.

Dean

Re:Really?? (1)

NateTech (50881) | more than 8 years ago | (#15332886)

Mod parent down for gratuitous plug of his company -- the link isn't to the screenshot, finding it is a pain in the ass, and it's tiny on the website. He just wants traffic.

Totally Agree VOIP was unusable on Connexion (1)

bryz (730558) | more than 8 years ago | (#15331190)

I wrote about my voip experience on Connexion a couple a weeks ago. The latency is horrible, the speed is marginal, and pretty much the service is only good for slow web-browsing and email. Fastest Wifi Hotspot ever [bryantchoung.com]

Link spam! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15329030)

Nice link spam, user "hdtv" pointing to a commercial website, wahoo!

Re:Link spam! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15329556)

"hdtv" also submitted The Economy of Online Crime [slashdot.org] yesterday. Only on Slashdot do editors fall for this crap; CNN never puts a call through to Larry King from "Jeremy in Buy-your-next-TV-from-UberPlasma.com, California."

There had better be (1)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329042)

a special legal dispensation for beating motormouths into unconsciousness with phones as retribution for the irritation factor on a long haul.

Not for the stupid or arrogant (0, Flamebait)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329541)

Why would you get that just for being too stupid to buy a $.30 pair of earplugs when you know that your going to be confined in a small room with a bunch of people from the genreal public who will be talking more than you want to hear.

Or for being so arrogant that you feel that everybody else should change their behavior to make you happy, when a $.30 pair of earplugs would let you have what you want while everybody else can have what they want.

Re:Not for the stupid or arrogant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15330659)

I consider it arrogant that you expect other people to take measures to protect themselves from your rude behavior. Sure, call it arrogance, but I and msot others call it common courtesy. Such attitudes as yours is why movie theaters in recent years suck bigtime.

This isn't the "general public." This is a private business service where I buy SPACE in to travel from point A to point B and I expect people to act with due consideration of my personal space. I don't care if people talk in normal conversation tones, but many people on cell phones DO NOT. I have a problem with them yapping in a loud voice because they lack control of their mouths such that even the person 2 rows back is getting annoyed.

You act annoying in any situation, esp. in confined quarters, don't feel surprised if people turn on you. Most people will agree with me over you easily given that the vast majority of people on airplanes are not annoying; it's usually some asshole that doesn't give a rat's ass about common sentiment blabbing his ass away (which isn't always a bad thing; I've embarrassed a number of them on disembarking given the details you sometimes pick up).

btw, you've never tried earplugs obviously, or maybe you're just hard of hearing and don't realize it. Earplugs are great for external sounds but are not usually a solution given they bring focus to vibrations, where a head resting on a headrest or pillow on a machine with a bunch of people and motors moving through the air at hundreds of miles per hour has a lot of. Earplugs (i.e. foam that you roll and stuff, wax, earmuffs, plug types) do work for some people, but they don't work for me.

Re:There had better be (1)

cashman73 (855518) | more than 8 years ago | (#15330111)

We're going to take a step back about 20-30 years, but instead of smoking vs. non-smoking sections on flights, we're going to see cell phone talking vs. non-cell phone talking sections.

Yet Another Reason to Not Fly (1)

resistant (221968) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329048)

Doubtless these VoIP conversations will appear on the Letterman show in a "Top Ten" list of the most annoying aspects of airplane travel, along with crying babies and seats designed for underage midgets.

Re:Yet Another Reason to Not Fly (1)

generic-man (33649) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329332)

I predict a sudden rise in the sales of noise-cancelling headphones after VoIP becomes commonplace on airplanes.

Re:Yet Another Reason to Not Fly (1)

fish waffle (179067) | more than 8 years ago | (#15330556)

I predict a sudden rise in the sales of noise-cancelling headphones after VoIP becomes commonplace on airplanes.

I stopped using those on airplanes. While they do reasonably well at eliminating the very loud, dull roar of the airplane they leave behind the more high-pitched human voices, including people talking and babies howling.

I guess it's all a matter of what one considers "noise" on an airplane. There's also the attendant feeling of greater ear-pressure, and the ache of wearing headphones continuosly for several hours.

Re:Yet Another Reason to Not Fly (1)

Phil Karn (14620) | more than 8 years ago | (#15332942)

Why does everyone automatically assume that providing the ability to make VoIP calls from an airplane will immediately trigger in widespread annoyance and air rage? Airphone was around for years with hardly a peep from anyone. And yeah, I did occasionally see people using them. Why the moral panic only now?

I think it's safe to predict that if you give airline passengers reasonably priced 802.11 access to the Internet, the vast majority will pull out their laptops, check their email and surf the web in silence. Very few will make voice calls. Who really wants to make a voice call in a noisy airline cabin with zero privacy when they have a better way to communicate?

I mean, even on the ground, how much time do you spend on the phone? On your computer?

Disclaimer: I work for Qualcomm, which is developing this air-to-ground technology.

Cost?? (4, Insightful)

NitsujTPU (19263) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329054)

Airfone already offers phone service on many flights, but its high cost has limited its use

You know what else is limited on airlines by cost?

Everything.

You know what would limit the cost of such services on airlines?

Somehow being able to take away the monopoly of an airline catering to its customers aboard its own jet.

AirFone is expensive because it's the only game in town. Making phone calls on airplanes will remain expensive until there are multiple carriers on the same flight. Good luck with that one.

Re:Cost?? (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329159)

You know what else is limited on airlines by cost?

Everything.

You know what would limit the cost of such services on airlines?

Somehow being able to take away the monopoly of an airline catering to its customers aboard its own jet.

AirFone is expensive because it's the only game in town. Making phone calls on airplanes will remain expensive until there are multiple carriers on the same flight. Good luck with that one.


First of all, the airlines are private companies - you can chose to use or not use a specific airline. They have every right to chose what services to offer - and you can pick a different airline if you don't like what they offer.

As for Airfone, they pay he airlines to haul the equipment - in essence they are leasing the space from the airlines; the extra weight of the phones cost the airlines money so unless someone is paying them to haul it they won't. personally, I'm surprised Airfone is still in business - I fly a lot and can't remember they last time I saw one in use - I've used it once - when my flight was horribly delayed and I barely made a later connector and didn't want the person meeting me to wait 6 hours at the airport and worry when I wasn't on my original flight.

Cell phones, OTOH, get whipped out as soon as the plane lands.

Personally, I hope the service providers charge high fees for WiFi acess - that will limit usage and keep some sanity in the skies.

Re:Cost?? (1)

NitsujTPU (19263) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329237)

First of all, the airlines are private companies - you can chose to use or not use a specific airline. They have every right to chose what services to offer - and you can pick a different airline if you don't like what they offer

I agree. I didn't say anything inherently negative about the matter. I said that they have a captive audience and commensurately high prices. They do. I wasn't saying that Congress should go in and change this, just that it's the case. It is.

As for Airfone, they pay he airlines to haul the equipment - in essence they are leasing the space from the airlines; the extra weight of the phones cost the airlines money so unless someone is paying them to haul it they won't. personally, I'm surprised Airfone is still in business - I fly a lot and can't remember they last time I saw one in use - I've used it once - when my flight was horribly delayed and I barely made a later connector and didn't want the person meeting me to wait 6 hours at the airport and worry when I wasn't on my original flight

K.

Cell phones, OTOH, get whipped out as soon as the plane lands.

Yep.

Personally, I hope the service providers charge high fees for WiFi acess - that will limit usage and keep some sanity in the skies.

Don't worry, the rates they charge make wireless at StarBucks look like a bargain. Even so, I wish that they'd be lower. I don't know what not being connected to the Internet has to do with sanity...

Re:Cost?? (1)

Achromatic1978 (916097) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329272)

Don't worry, the rates they charge make wireless at StarBucks look like a bargain.

US$26.95 is a bit of a hit, but it's really not when you're making a 14 1/2 hour long haul from Nagoya to Heathrow - under $2 an hour. Really, look at Airfone's rates, Connexion / airline could gouge you far harder than they're doing.

Re:Cost?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15329314)

"I don't know what not being connected to the Internet has to do with sanity..."

Ever taken a long haul flight? Well, it sucks. Something that would make it suck a lot more is if all the people crammed into the little metal tube were yacking away to their Moms on their free in-flight phones. Long flights are bearable because everyone shuts up and either watches films or sleeps - everyone talking at cell phone volume would drive me to murder...

Re:Cost?? (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329881)

Don't worry, the rates they charge make wireless at StarBucks look like a bargain. Even so, I wish that they'd be lower. I don't know what not being connected to the Internet has to do with sanity...

Sounds like we're in violent agreement.

While wireless would be great if it was affordable, I shudder at the thought of sitting next to someone for 10+ hours as they chat on the phone. Fortunately, even if teh rates are low the latency will probably make VOIP next to useless.

Re:Cost?? (1)

hazem (472289) | more than 8 years ago | (#15331082)

Personally, I hope the service providers charge high fees for WiFi acess - that will limit usage and keep some sanity in the skies.

The airlines are already doing everything they can to make the trip as excruciating as possible. And you're saying that a nice avenue of "escape" like the internet should be as highly priced as possible? Wi-fi is no the same as voip. And frankly, I'd rather have the dude wedged in next to me surfing the internet than trying to talk to me.

Re:Cost?? (1)

HermanAB (661181) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329396)

When flying overland, common cell phones works pretty good actually. Your battery just don't last long, since it uses high power, but you can make one or two calls while in the air.

Re:Cost?? (1)

nsayer (86181) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329587)

When flying overland, common cell phones works pretty good actually

Except for the fact that it's a violation of FCC rules to use a cell phone in an airplane at all.

The problem is that when you raise a cell phone up high enough, it winds up being visible to way too may cells and causes excessive interference.

Re:Cost?? (1)

hazem (472289) | more than 8 years ago | (#15331118)

The problem is that when you raise a cell phone up high enough, it winds up being visible to way too may cells and causes excessive interference.

So... to wreak havoc on communications, all a "terrorist" needs to do is tie a bunch of cheap cellphones to helium_filled balloons, dial 911, and let go? Sounds like the system is inherently weak and needs to be redesigned a bit. Why can't the towers talk to each other and tell each other which phones they're handling? Why does being visible to multiple towers HAVE to be a problem?

Re:Cost?? (1)

HermanAB (661181) | more than 8 years ago | (#15331214)

Conceptually it is no different from living on a hill or a mountain. Lots of people use their cell phones for emergency comms when hiking in the Rockies.

Re:Cost?? (1)

nsayer (86181) | more than 8 years ago | (#15335182)

So... to wreak havoc on communications, all a "terrorist" needs to do is tie a bunch of cheap cellphones to helium_filled balloons, dial 911, and let go?

That overstates things by a fair degree. It's an incremental thing. If it were allowed, then it would happen so often that the idea of cellular service wouldn't really work.

Why does being visible to multiple towers HAVE to be a problem?

Basically for the same reason that spam is bad. It overwhelms a channel dedicated to one conversation with a bunch of unrelated traffic that isn't useful.

Old news - has been possible for a while (2, Informative)

geirhe (587392) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329071)

I work for Telio, which is an european VOIP operator. I may be biased. Caveat emptor.

Our customers have been able to do voip calls using our softphone on intercontinental flights for a year or so, given a decent IP service on the plane. I have even been in a teleconference with one of our employees who was somewhere above the atlantic ocean.

Downside: Latency. These calls have to go via satellites, which means a typical delay of several hundred milliseconds.

Here is how to improve it (1)

kanweg (771128) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329458)

With so many planes in the air, it should be possible to rout packets from one plane to the next. It is just like the Internet works, but now the nodes are moving. It saves thousands of miles (up and down) to the satelite, so your ping rates should improve.

Bert
Patent attorney opposed to software patents. The above idea is a case in point that for software inventions you don't need any expertise, and not even a glass of beer to stir up the brain cells a bit. In case someone patents this, remember you saw it here first, Mother's day 2006.

Re:Here is how to improve it (1)

slashjunkie (800216) | more than 8 years ago | (#15331528)

Unless you propose some method of tracking (relatively) nearby aircraft, so as to aim a reasonably directional antenna at them, you're going to have to use a horribly inefficient omnidirectional antenna.

Also, bear in mind that once outside of ATC zones (ie, in the middle of oceans), about the only long distance communication that works is HF SSB (and in theory, lower frequencies too). The bandwidth of these HF channels used by aircraft is less than the VHF they use for communication when over land, and you'd need to allocate big chunks of international spectrum to get the required bandwidth for implementing what would essentially a be mesh network.

Replacement of the existing HF voice communication system with satellites are underway, so I guess they figured that's the optimal way.

If Connexion used lower altitude, polar-orbiting satellites, this would obviously reduce latency, but would require tracking of those satellites, and some kind of handover system whenever a satellite went below the horizon.

Seriously Now (5, Insightful)

resistant (221968) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329081)

The problem with these potential yak-fests by seatmates and by nearby or loud passengers is being unable to escape from them. That will be quite stressful for some folks. It's not possible mid-flight to walk out of a plane in disgust. It's easy to foresee a spike in "air rage" incidents. The airlines may be forced to limit talk hours on longer flights (say two hours and up), or to provide "sound hoods" (although it's difficult to see how these could be designed to work well in such cramped quarters).

These first efforts at mass access to in-air telephony will be mildly interesting social experiments.

Re:Seriously Now (4, Funny)

NitsujTPU (19263) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329106)

It's not possible mid-flight to walk out of a plane in disgust.

That's not true at all. The difficulty arises upon trying to return to the plane.

Re:Seriously Now (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 8 years ago | (#15330269)

Your fellow passengers and crew might get a bit irritated too, as their air goes rushing away.

Re:Seriously Now (1)

NitsujTPU (19263) | more than 8 years ago | (#15331675)

They could always go to a Japanese 7-11 and purchase all the air they like.
http://www.rapidnewswire.com/5146-cannedoxygen-024 5.htm [rapidnewswire.com]

Re:Seriously Now (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 8 years ago | (#15331794)

My first thought was wouldn't that be fun to toss into a camp fire (from a long distance).

I was under the impression (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 8 years ago | (#15331863)

that passenger airliner doors were designed to be virtually impossible to open if the cabin is at a higher pressure than the outside air (as it is in flight).

Re:Seriously Now (2, Funny)

fish waffle (179067) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329119)

The problem with these potential yak-fests by seatmates and by nearby or loud passengers is being unable to escape from them.

Indeed, and with airplanes being very noisy environments people will talk even louder. The key then is to force them to have/want to escape from you. The return of the BFR/boombox? Inexplicable bouts of Tourettes? Ah, to be able to fart at will...

Re:Seriously Now (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329147)

Ah, to be able to fart at will...

Carbonated beverages - lots of tehm. Thge airlines will even provide the raw materials for free, you just have to do teh processing and delivery of the final product.

Pfff, it is very simple (3, Insightful)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329148)

Just put up a sign. "Please make your phone calls outside."

Same place to deal with crying babies and anyone who snores.

Or maybe airlines should just offer special areas in the plane for people that do not want to be disturbed. Would you pay 3times the ticket price for a private area free from the rest of humanity? It works on boats and trains. Cheap tickets you sit with everyone else, expensive tickets you got your own space.

But yeah it is an intresting social experiment, how much are people willing to annoy a group for their own needs and how willing is the group to put up with the needs of an individual.

It is nothing specific to cellphones. If you honk your car in the middle of the night to say goodbye you are just as much being an asshole.

What I think is new is that it is more anonymous. A family that constantly has guests departing in the night and making noise will have to deal with the neighbours during the day. You are going to have to live in that neighbourhood for years to come so you better behave.

This is far less the case with a cellphone. You will never see those people in the airplane again so who gives a fuck if they hate your guts.

It is a reason some companies have put up a sticker on their vehicles to provide a phone number to call if the driver behaves badly. Without it the driver couldn't give a damn since he will never face the person he cut off in traffic. With the sticker he stand a real chance of being told of by his cheff. I seen several co-workers being reprimanded for people complaining about their driving in company vehicles.

It would perhaps be intresting to see if the people that make annoying calls are themselves annoyed by other people.

Re:Pfff, it is very simple (2)

Achromatic1978 (916097) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329285)

maybe airlines should just offer special areas in the plane for people that do not want to be disturbed. Would you pay 3times the ticket price for a private area free from the rest of humanity? ... Cheap tickets you sit with everyone else, expensive tickets you got your own space.

Err, uhh, yeah. I think they call it "Business" and "First" class.

Internationally, at least, both of those will gain you a secluded near-coccoon.

It's a novel concept I know, extending classes from boats and trains to these new-fangled planes, and it's been slow to catch on, but this might just be the year it catches on.

You never been on a boat or train I take it (2, Informative)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 8 years ago | (#15330826)

There is a HUGE difference between second class, first class and private rooms. I am not talking your normal commuter train here but international trains.

They got "regular" seats for cheap tickets where you spend the entire journey in a seat maybe a bit larger then the one in a normal train. And then you got your cabin train. Watch a movie like Orient Express or Silver Streak to get the idea.

If they got private rooms in airliners today I am flying the wrong airlines.

Re:Pfff, it is very simple (1)

CodeArtisan (795142) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329355)

Or maybe airlines should just offer special areas in the plane for people that do not want to be disturbed. Would you pay 3times the ticket price for a private area free from the rest of humanity? It works on boats and trains. Cheap tickets you sit with everyone else, expensive tickets you got your own space.

Right idea, wrong way round. If you want to sit and yell into your cell phone ("I'M ON THE PLANE !!!!"), then you should pay 3 or 4 times more to sit in an isolated compartment.

But yeah it is an intresting social experiment, how much are people willing to annoy a group for their own needs and how willing is the group to put up with the needs of an individual.

It's been running for the last 10 years or so on, amongst others, Metro-North trains into NYC. The results are pretty conclusive. There are vast amounts of people who are inconsiderate asshats.

Re:Pfff, it is very simple (0, Flamebait)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329578)

Yeah, the asshats that want eigther to stupid to bring a $.30 pair of earplugs, or so arrogant that they think they should be able to control everybody elses behavior, so that they don't have to put in a $.30 pair of earplugs. After all, why should they have to modify THEIR behavior to get what they want, when they can demand that everybody else modify theirs to cator to them.

Re:Pfff, it is very simple (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 8 years ago | (#15330316)

We have this concept of "society." Basically, it's held together by certain rules that allow people to exist in relatively close quarters without killing each other. In big cities or other situations where people are forced into even tighter than normal confines, social rules become more important.

One of those is that you avoid making excessive noise. A quiet conversation with your seat mate is great. A quiet conversation with your cell phone is okay. But how many people make those? Usually it's more like one of the other posters pointed out: "I'M ON THE PLANE/TRAIN/AUTOMOBILE!!! CAN YOU HEAR ME? HELLO?"

Or the alternative "DID YOU GET THAT DEAL DONE? I SAID SELL! JOE'S GOING TO HAVE TO ANSWER TO ME WHEN I GET IN." In other words, look at me, I'm important because I have a cell phone.

See, it's about compromise. If I object to any noise at all then I should invest in those ear plugs. If you want to scream into your phone then you should invest in some alternative where you won't be bothering people, such as alternative transportation, a computer and instant messenger, or counseling. If you can manage to have a conversation at a polite volume, then go for it. Unfortunately your fellow talkers have generally shown they're not capable of doing that.

Re:Pfff, it is very simple (1)

instagib (879544) | more than 8 years ago | (#15331745)

This remembers me of the same old "be more tolerant" bullshit you hear from smokers. No one asking for natural, sane air (or an acceptable noise level) wants to modify the behaviour of anyone, they have the right in society to ask for it. If you are the one "modifying" standard living conditions (by polluting with smoke or noise), YOU have to take steps to avoid that others suffer. Sadly, this isn't understood be enough people.

So in other words... (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 8 years ago | (#15332089)

In other words, your shade of gray is better than mine.... BS. You make noise all the time. You do things that other people would rather you not do. The difference is that because cell phones are reletively new, you and the other neo-luddites feel that you have some moral superior high ground, when in fact you are just arrogant. When you stop talking in public, then you will stop being a hypocrate.

Re:Pfff, it is very simple (2, Funny)

senatorpjt (709879) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329420)

Honestly, I welcome the prospect of having everyone talking on phones, maybe it'll drown out the sound of the screaming brat I always end up having to listen to for six hours on every flight I've ever been on.

Re:Pfff, it is very simple (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 8 years ago | (#15330281)

Other way around -- phone calls are limited to business class. Your time is valuable enough that you have to spend the entire flight yaking? Then it's not too much to ask that you pay extra and get confined behind the blue curtain. ESPECIALLY on long haul flights when the rest of us want to sleep.

Now, if someone sat beside me talking business on their cell phone I'd probably just whip out a notebook and start taking notes. Blatantly, in plain sight. See how long it takes them to notice and throw a temper tantrum.

Re:Seriously Now (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329299)

provide "sound hoods" (although it's difficult to see how these could be designed to work well in such cramped quarters).

Max: We're testing the portable Cone of Silence
Chief: What?
Max: Cone . . . of . . .Silence!
Chief: WHAT?
Everyone else on plane: Shut the fuck up!

KFG

Smok^h^h^h^hTalking Section (1)

wwwillem (253720) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329377)

The problem with these potential yak-fests by seatmates and by nearby or loud passengers is being unable to escape from them.

Time to reintroduce the old smoking section in the back of the plane. This time not for smokers, but for yakkers. However, I do remember how I always would get a seat in the last row before the smoking section.

Re:Seriously Now (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329388)

The problem with these potential yak-fests by seatmates and by nearby or loud passengers is being unable to escape from them.

Which is no different from having a chatty seatmate that ignores your repeated attempts to terminate the one-sided conversation.

Actually, if it's cheap, VOIP may be a great solution for that problem. They can call someone who *wants* to hear about their hemorrhoid surgery, and I can put on my noise cancelling headphones and retreat into a blissful illusion of solitude.

Really, to me, the worst part about VOIP on planes will be that I can no longer use "I'll be flying" as a reason to avoid conference calls.

Re:Seriously Now (1)

(H)elix1 (231155) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329435)

The problem with these potential yak-fests by seatmates and by nearby or loud passengers is being unable to escape from them.

I'd wager those same annoying passengers will talk loudly regardless of if they are on the phone or not. I just flew CDG > DWT > SFO, and each leg the person sitting next to me thought they should have a conversation with me anytime I opened a laptop - even if I had headphones on. Them talking to someone else on the phone would be a good thing. Hell, I would have paid $20 to have them talk to someone else over the phone rather than tell me about the mundane details of their life. They don't keep their mouth shut either way..

I suspect people will treat the phone like they do a movie - not interrupt someone who is engaged in that type of activity.

Easy, $2.99 Solution or Excellent $500 Solution (1)

WaltFrench (165051) | more than 8 years ago | (#15331357)

$2.99 for a bottle of a few dozen foam earplugs. Each pair is good for a couple of flights. The very small surcharge on a ticket is worth a lot.

Better yet, get some Etymotic 4P 'phones & plug 'em into an iPod full of your CD's.

I fly about weekly. Listening to favorite music at low volumes -- the roar of jets, as well as babies, etc., is blocked so effectively by these things -- makes for surprisingly relaxing travel. (Excellent hi fidelity, too.) Takes down the stress level a couple of notches. Read, snooze, whatever.

You might not like having to isolate yourself from fellow humans, but I don't get complaints about the ill effects because you choose not to.

Airplane 2006.9999: The Bandwidth Sucks (0)

creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329115)

Is VOIP is on a separate network? Or is it sharing the same network as the digital fly-by-wire system [wikipedia.org] ? Since Hollywood is remaking everything from the 1980's, I can see a whole new generation of Airplane [wikipedia.org] movies where a terrorist attack is averted because everyone uses the VOIP to call relatives and the plane crashes due to a lack of bandwidth while the pilots making out with the flight attendants in the cockpit.

Re:Airplane 2006.9999: The Bandwidth Sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15329210)

All I can see is the plane crashing because you are on it.

Re:Airplane 2006.9999: The Bandwidth Sucks (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#15330064)

You must've seen my Slashdot F.A.Q. [creimer.ws] :P

It's unlikely that a plane will crash because of me since I'm too cheap to buy two extra-small seats that a lot of airliners are now installing as "normal" seating.

why do it over voip? (1)

danimrich (584138) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329120)

Some carriers have been offering phone and fax services onboard for quite a few years, with reasonable pricing (~$1/min, IIRC). You'd just take the handset in front of your seat, switch it on, swipe a credit card and dial. While every passenger can afford a quick phone call, it is too expensive to talk for more than a few minutes, which I think is a good thing.

Heres an idea (1)

The Cisco Kid (31490) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329264)

Instead of offering VoIP, instead offer content-neutral Internet access, and let customers use their own choice of VoIP providers.

Why wireless? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15329368)

Just curious, why not just provide wired ports in airline seats (some airlines already provide power outlets)? Some pros and cons:

+ Connectivity without any safety concerns.
+ Issue of wireless channel capacity is avoided.
+ Revenue (probably negligible though) for airlines by sale of ethernet cables.
+ VOIP also taken care of (at least using softphones from laptops).

- Airplanes need to be eth-enabled (cost issue and also probably ruled out for existing planes).

Seems to me that low-power wireless solutions such as Bluetooth or 802.15.4 (Zigbee) could also play a role here.

"I'm on the plane! Yes, on the plane!" (1)

ian_mackereth (889101) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329437)

As with any other use of mobile phones or VOIP via laptops, the real need is for education about AGC!

Once people finally get the idea that talking at a normal level works just as well as shouting into the phone, the annoyance factor becomes no worse than any other quiet conversation around you.

With cellphones, part of the problem is that there's no foldback to the earpiece, so there's no feedback assuring you that your voice is being heard. Do VOIP clients do this better? I know the one I use via an ATA and a standard DECT phone does, but I don't often use the PC for VOIP calls.

I also don't frequent wi-fi hotspots much (other than mine!); do VOIP users speak too loudly the way most cellphone users do?

VOIP instead of cellphones might prove to be the lesser of two evils for airline communications!

Skype calls from Lufthansa wireless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15329609)

Last fall I flew Lufthansa to Europe and it was the first flight that I've seen wireless Internet available. It was about $10/hour or $30 for the whole flight. I, of course, had to give it a try to see how it worked. It was great.

My wife noticed that the woman in the isle across from us was wearing a headset and microphone and talking into her computer. We assumed she was talking to someone using what my wife thought was skype. If this was the case then voip is already in-flight.

Re:Skype calls from Lufthansa wireless (1)

rmadhuram (525803) | more than 8 years ago | (#15332806)

That is very true. I have had voip calls with my friend when he was in-flight on Lufthansa from Frankfurt to Chennai. The call quality was great.

Call me whatever (1)

johansalk (818687) | more than 8 years ago | (#15329627)

For most passengers I'd rather them chatting on the phone than trying to chat with me.

just need internet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15329890)

I think free internet would be much cheaper, more informative, and quieter.

privacy (1)

null-sRc (593143) | more than 8 years ago | (#15330083)

this is definitly one context where you can really assume there is zero privacy considerations.

because remember, virtues like respect for privacy are only for when they're convenient.

Oh well, at least... (1)

Jafafa Hots (580169) | more than 8 years ago | (#15330223)

at least JetBlue has the free directv, etc.... so you can put on some headphones and drown out the phone chatter.

I wouldn't mind... (1)

Morky (577776) | more than 8 years ago | (#15330284)

..having to listen to someone blather on loudly in the neighboring seat on a flight. At least not if they lift the ban on compressed air horns.

Really Old News (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15330356)

Cell phone calls were possible back in 2001. How else would Mark Bingham have been able to call his own mother and tell her "Mom, it's Mark Bingham..."

I think I'll call my own mother and tell it's "[first name] [middle name] [last name] [second last name]."

Wait if cell phone calls were possible back in 2001, why would the air lines take so much pride in a multi-million dollar project to make cell phone calls possible in 2004?

Troll +(-10)

Get ready for air-rage-arama! (1)

woohootoo (904621) | more than 8 years ago | (#15331304)

Arrrrgh!

sidetone allows whispering on airplanes (1)

cellurl (906920) | more than 8 years ago | (#15332014)

I have a sure fire way to make VoIP non-annoying! Its called "sidetone" and its missing from all cellphones! Regular phones use them!!!! Sidetone sends some of your voice to your ear. This keeps you from screaming into the cellphone, and if its nice and loud, you can (and will want to) whisper. The only reason sidetone isnt in cellphones is the battery drain. BUT on an airplane, there could be powered VoIP phones which could strong sidetone.

Re:sidetone allows whispering on airplanes (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 8 years ago | (#15332532)

"Sidetone" is called an echo from the fact the copper wire in your phone impedes the flow of electrons and you get feedback. It isn't desirable or intentional. :-)

Just FYI.

Cells don't have it because they're all digital (so is your landline after you hit the switch). Though on longer hops (like calling from europe) from a cell phone you can still hear some humming and other oddities (stupid 50Hz!!!!)

Tom

Re:sidetone allows whispering on airplanes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15333025)

Call phones have side tone. Sidetone is a strict requirement of the GSM specification, and it is actually tested for type approval. It would surprise me if the other cell phone systems would not have the same requirements.

Call Me A Pessimist (1)

Postmaster General (136755) | more than 8 years ago | (#15334063)

Yeah, call me a pessimist, but whenever I see the words "Coming Soon" and "Government" close together, something makes me want to laugh.

Whatever happened... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15335196)

...to just reading a good book on airplanes?
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