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FCC Says No to Mobile Phones on Airplane

ScuttleMonkey posted about 7 years ago | from the flights-are-for-napping dept.

United States 398

GayBliss writes "CNN is reporting that the FCC has decided to keep a rule in place that would ban mobile phone usage on airplanes. The FAA has a similar ban, but for different reasons. 'In an order released Tuesday, the agency noted that "insufficient technical information" was available on whether airborne cell phone calls would jam networks below. [...]Unlike the Federal Aviation Administration, which bans the use of cell phones and other portable electronic devices for fear they will interfere with navigational and communications systems, the FCC's concern is interference with other cell phone signals on the ground.'"

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398 comments

Hooray! (5, Insightful)

BWJones (18351) | about 7 years ago | (#18610809)

I've commented [utah.edu] before about some of the hassles of travel lately (and some of the possible solutions [utah.edu]), and all I have to say about the FCC maintaining the ban of cell phones on planes is thank you!. Aside from the "insufficient technical information" statement, this ruling is going to prevent someone from having violence done to them because of their inane constant droning to any and all within earshot. I once had the displeasure of sitting on a plane on the tarmac for two hours while our flight was delayed and the pilot allowed everyone to use their cell phones. It was torture as most folks were not talking on their cell phones to arrange transportation or take care of business, but they were talking (loudly) about everything and nothing and forcing those around them to have to listen! Even worse, people began trying to speak over one another and the volume gradually increased until there was an amazing din of people calling their friends to say "Hey! Hey! Betcha can't guess where I'm calling you from! An airplane! Ha ha ha ha, yeah and on my own cell phone even!". It was a horrible forced invasion of personal space and ever since then I had been hoping that the FCC would not allow this to become a common occurrence.

unfortunately... (2, Interesting)

beckerist (985855) | about 7 years ago | (#18610855)

Unfortunately (or fortunately), this might give the MPAA ideas about courtesy in theaters...

Re:unfortunately... (-1, Troll)

rifter (147452) | about 7 years ago | (#18611607)

Unfortunately (or fortunately), this might give the MPAA ideas about courtesy in theaters...

I have to say I am one of those people who disagrees with the rules against cell phones. I think stopping people from using them in stores/bars, in planes/trains, and in their cars is just silly, though in the case of cars I do think people should use handsfree. It's just that most handsfree solutions seem to suck. I certainly haven't found a decent solution for that despite many attempts.

However, when it comes to theatres I have to say there is no reason to allow people to use cell phones in theatres. If you think you're going to have to take a call you need to put the phone on vibrate and go outside to talk.

As a matter of fact, my favorite theatre has a rule about that. At the beginning of each movie they display a warning: "If you talk or use your cell phone during this movie we will take your ass out." It usually is in bold colours, like all in red, accompanied by an incredibly violent graphic of semirandom choice. There are a lot of things I like about that theatre, but this has to be the best feature. They also have a rule against bringing in children under a certain age, or children making noise. The only problem with this rule is that they do have a "whining baby night" or something like that, on tuesdays. I thought it was funny when someone who was new in town had the unfortunate experience of going on that night without knowing the rule. I was glad to find that it is definitely a good idea to avoid that night like the plague, which is an indication of why it is also good they have that rule in place on other nights.

I think they do sometimes waive the baby rule for the daytime showings of kid's films, but not for the showings at night. This way Linux gurus over 30 can slake their shameful, secret, Harry Potter habit without having to deal with a bunch of young children being loud during the movie.

Re:Hooray! (1)

MindStalker (22827) | about 7 years ago | (#18610873)

You don't see many people doing this in the terminal do you? I think in the long run people would develop proper protocol and act appropriately... They just didn't know what that was..

Re:Hooray! (4, Insightful)

BWJones (18351) | about 7 years ago | (#18610965)

Hell yes, people do this in the terminal. Many have written before about the death of courtesy, but at least in the terminal you can walk to another part of the terminal and distance yourself from the person. The problem in an airplane (particularly in coach class) is that you are sitting in forced proximity to the offending person.

Re:Hooray! (1, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 7 years ago | (#18611731)

The problem in an airplane (particularly in coach class) is that you are sitting in forced proximity to the offending person.

As long as they're talking at the top of their lungs, just interrupt them continually.

If they're talking in a normal tone of voice, what's the problem?

Re:Hooray! (4, Insightful)

Romancer (19668) | about 7 years ago | (#18611101)

Quote: I think in the long run people would develop proper protocol and act appropriately...

Seriously?

Do you even read the slashdot comments? Or just try to drive to the store and have people cut you off, walk out in front of you, or park their cars on the painted lines at an angle?

There is a small percentage of people on Earth that can actually understand their effect on others AND have consideration enough to act appropriately.

I think that the majority of the people out there care just enough about others to not piss people off so much that they'll get beaten, but not by much. And these same people are so oblivious of their surroundings that they don't notice that the people that they honk at and yell at are doing the exact same things that they just did.

That's why we have to have laws that wouldn't be there if people would just take it upon themselves to act appropriately.

Re:Hooray! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18611493)

Never count on someone to be descrete and polite when on a phone. Nothing says "I'm important" better than a stuffed suit screaming "I'm Important" into their cell phone.

Check this out: http://www.globalgadgetuk.com/ [globalgadgetuk.com]

Someone I know ordered one and it's a blast to play with, especially at the mall or your local Hooters where all of the cell phone posers hang out.

Re:Hooray! (2, Interesting)

packeteer (566398) | about 7 years ago | (#18611737)

One out of every 100 people does not have the proper connection to their brain's pre-frontal cortex. This means they are psychologically incapable of caring for others. This happens in certain conditions like autism but it also exists in the normal healthy population at an alarming rate. 1% of people just can't care, its just not possible, when you take that into consideration it puts a lot of experiances with rude people into perspective. The vast majority of these people are normal people who act properly around others, most of them have learned social rules to behave nicely towards others but sometimes when it comes to them making their own choice about how to treat others they msot likely will not care at all.

Re:Hooray! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18611743)

If there are no technical hurdles, it should be up to the airline. Something like "It is Jet Blue's policy not to allow the use of cellular phones for voice calls." Couple that with "you are required to obey uniformed flight attenants" and there shouldn't be too much of a problem. The FCC and FAA need to figure out, once and for all, if using phones poses a technical risk to the cell network or the airplane. Ettiquite shouldn't come into it.

Re:Hooray! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18610885)

Hmm. That sounds like what it's like everywhere I go. It's nonstop. People talk loudly about things you don't want to hear about, often very personal things. This is why my cell stays off unless I need it. Then it's off again.

Re:Hooray! (3, Interesting)

josecanuc (91) | about 7 years ago | (#18611337)

The last time I was in an airport, about 5 months ago, I was waiting in the terminal with all the other folks, etc.

There was a lady there who was either an insurance agent or in some insurance- or heath-related business.

She was helping someone file some report or claim and happily read out, very loudly, the names, birthdays, and social security numbers of an entire family of five, complete with repeats to make sure the other person got the numbers correctly.

I considered writing it all down and showing the lady, saying, "Thanks, I'm sure I'll be able to get a few grand out of this information!"

She had no sense that her voice was filling the entire terminal (2 gates, tiny airport) or that the information she was giving out might be of any use to anyone else...

Re:Hooray! (5, Insightful)

Paulrothrock (685079) | about 7 years ago | (#18611035)

It's times like that I am most thankful for the invention of the iPod. Nothing like creating a personal space in a public space.

Re:Hooray! (1)

BWJones (18351) | about 7 years ago | (#18611153)

As I said back in 2002 [utah.edu], " it's hard to appreciate just how much thought and effort went into the design and interface. Little features like the lack of a built in speaker means that the iPod will never be used to offend others by thoughtlessly playing loud music and imparting an unconscious societal feeling of contempt for the device".

Re:Hooray! (1)

compro01 (777531) | about 7 years ago | (#18611769)

Little features like the lack of a built in speaker means that the iPod will never be used to offend others by thoughtlessly playing loud music and imparting an unconscious societal feeling of contempt for the device

you evidently haven't heard how loudly some people play them. i can often hear them clearly from 3 or 4 seats back on a bus.

the hearing aid market is going to be absolutely booming in 10 or 20 years.

Re:Hooray! (5, Insightful)

x2A (858210) | about 7 years ago | (#18611147)

I don't get this whole deal with people on mobile phones, as if it's any different from sitting next to two people talking directly to each other. The only difference is whether you can hear the other side of the converstation or not. All I can figure out is that not being able to hear the other side of the conversation makes the brain curious and fix on what's being said more, making you more aware of it. Personally I don't really care, so I have no more of a problem tuning it out as I would do if I was sitting next to two people having the same conversation.

Re:Hooray! (3, Informative)

dal20402 (895630) | about 7 years ago | (#18611417)

"[H]earing only one side of a conversation makes it more noticeable and intrusive." [metapress.com] (Sorry, no full article without paying, unless you're at an .edu with access, but the abstract pretty much sums it up.)

I agree with the researchers' conclusions. A full conversation usually stays in the background for me. Hearing one side is very jarring and I can't ignore it. I wish cellphones would be banned on airplanes, period, even when on the ground; the key difference between an airplane and a train/a building/the street is that in an airplane you can't get away.

Re:Hooray! (4, Insightful)

jfengel (409917) | about 7 years ago | (#18611419)

You can talk to a person sitting next to you in a whisper. They get a lot of other clues (facial expressions, unconscious lip reading) that fill in a lot of the details.

On a cell phone you tend to talk louder to be sure that you're heard. You're dealing with a tiny microphone. You're also dealing with a tiny speaker; when you're having trouble hearing you tend to talk louder in the belief that they must also be having trouble hearing you.

So a perfect cell phone would indeed be no more of a nuisance than a conversation with a seat mate, but at least some people talk a lot louder than that. It may actually be no louder than ordinary conversation, but a cramped space (restaurant, airplane) requires hushed tones.

Re:Hooray! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18611191)

Keeping people calm, relaxed, and happy on an airplane is a very valid reason for banning cellphones. Why not just come out and say it? Reminds me of movie theatres now. I haven't been in so long because there's always some couple talking to each other, and when the movie finishes I remember how much it sucks to have to endure that. Same goes for planes. I'd pay more to fly with an airline that banned cellphones.

Re:Hooray! (1)

BWJones (18351) | about 7 years ago | (#18611349)

Yeah, I have a pair of the Bose headphones and while they are nice for seriously eliminating the ambient noise in the cabin from the engines and air handlers, they do nothing to damp out the obnoxious cell phone conversation next to you. That you can hear wonderfully well due to the engineering of the headphones. It's actually nice as you can hear announcements that the pilot makes or hear when the flight attendant is asking you a question, but they do not completely eliminate ambient sounds.

Ah (2, Insightful)

matt me (850665) | about 7 years ago | (#18611281)

It's a human right to be an arse back to people talking on their phones in public. Walk into them. They can't resist.

Re:Hooray! (1)

SeaFox (739806) | about 7 years ago | (#18611323)

Aside from the "insufficient technical information" statement, this ruling is going to prevent someone from having violence done to them because of their inane constant droning to any and all within earshot.

Of course, with internet access allowed on planes, what's to stop people from droning on with Skype calls?

I know, probably latency, but still...

Re:Hooray! (1)

noidentity (188756) | about 7 years ago | (#18611779)

" It was a horrible forced invasion of personal space and ever since then I had been hoping that the FCC would not allow this to become a common occurrence."

So, hooray for goverment interference in private affairs? Seriously, if you don't want to hear idiots on their phones, don't patronize businesses who allow it. If there are enough of us, businesses will cater.

Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18610835)

Its not like theres any service in an airplane

Insufficient technical information (4, Insightful)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | about 7 years ago | (#18610863)

Insufficient technical information exists to say that they do interfere with ground signals or even the navigation and communications systems used to justify the FAA's ban.

So why the ban? Erring on the side of caution? Gimme a break. There's gotta be another reason that nobody's talking about.

Re:Insufficient technical information (2, Insightful)

CF4L (1072112) | about 7 years ago | (#18610877)

Another reason? How about the prevention of "air rage" from people beating the shit out of other people for talking the whole time next to them on their cell for a 4 hour flight when you have a headache and just want to sleep?

Re:Insufficient technical information (2, Insightful)

Vengeance (46019) | about 7 years ago | (#18611055)

How about the jerks who are so prone to beating the shit out of people start their own airline, then, and leave the normal people in peace? Frankly, there have been plenty of cases of people going bat shit crazy on airplanes to leave me wondering if there's something inherently unstable in our little primate brains when subjected to altitude.

However, that's *really* a non-issue here wrt this article, as controlling sociopathic travellers isn't part of the FCC's bailiwick. The real story here is the claim that there isn't enough proof that cell phones whizzing by five miles over our heads at five hundred miles an hour won't cause you to lose your call to Aunt Mabel, a call which is statistically likely to be just as inane as the ones causing mass murders overhead.

Re:Insufficient technical information (2, Insightful)

Chmcginn (201645) | about 7 years ago | (#18611353)

Frankly, there have been plenty of cases of people going bat shit crazy on airplanes to leave me wondering if there's something inherently unstable in our little primate brains when subjected to altitude.

Replace "altitude" with "confinement in a tube with a bunch of other primates", and it ends up a lot more plausible.

Re:Insufficient technical information (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18610933)

When it comes to the possibility of sending thousands of people plummeting to their doom I'm happy they're taking the cautious route. If only they'd done that with cell phones in cars.

Re:Insufficient technical information (2, Insightful)

shawn(at)fsu (447153) | about 7 years ago | (#18610961)

Not everything needs to be turned in to a conspiracy. Yes I know this is /tinfoilhat. but really does someone need to do this every time?
Thank you FCC.

Re:Insufficient technical information (1)

Lockejaw (955650) | about 7 years ago | (#18611061)

It's still a valid question: why would a cell phone on an airplane cause more interference to cell phones on the ground than another cell phone on the ground would cause?

Re:Insufficient technical information (3, Insightful)

Orange Crush (934731) | about 7 years ago | (#18611289)

It's still a valid question: why would a cell phone on an airplane cause more interference to cell phones on the ground than another cell phone on the ground would cause?

I believe the main concern that a cellphone at high altitude will be able to "see" lots of towers that look almost equally good and be prone to jumping back and forth between them at a much much higher rate than the networks were designed for, interfering with peoples' ability to make calls on the ground.

Re:Insufficient technical information (2, Interesting)

saider (177166) | about 7 years ago | (#18611329)

Transferring cells happens much more frequently, and if you have a group of, say, 20-30 people all hopping towers at the same time, it is bound to cause problems. The software and hardware in the towers is more or less expecting smooth and random distribution of incoming requests for service.

The system simply was not designed with this in mind.

Re:Insufficient technical information (2, Insightful)

redelm (54142) | about 7 years ago | (#18610993)

And just how are you going to test? Should you need to prove safety, or do you assume it and wonder when aircraft crash?

Cellphones are remarkably powerful devices. I can hear interference from mine on my landline when they're close. I wouldn't want to try it on unshielded (weight) avionics. Aircraft design is very tight (weight) without the robustness you might expect.

Re:Insufficient technical information (1)

Dr. Eggman (932300) | about 7 years ago | (#18611619)

I completely agree, aside from my initial, sleep-deprived reading of your post as saying "I can hear interference from a landmine online when they're close." My cellphone is causes interference with my TV, my speakers, and even my alarm clock whenever it's near them. I also had a roommate once who needed both his cellphone and his alarm clock to wake him up, so he'd set the cellphone to go off and then the alarm clock shortly thereafter. The thing is, just before the cellphone would go off, burst of interference loud enough to wake me up would project from the alarm clock. Either the cellphones need to contact the network, or the alarm would bring itself out of standby to play the alarm, and in doing so automatically try contacting the network.

Re:Insufficient technical information (1)

maxume (22995) | about 7 years ago | (#18611663)

The control the weight because it costs them cargo, but it isn't 'tight'. The first 747 had a max take off weight of 735,000 pounds. The planned cargo version they are producing right now has a projected cargo capacity of 132 tons. A couple of thousand pounds of avionics isn't something you skimp much on in a situation like that. (and in smaller planes, a couple of hundred pounds of avionics is only one passenger...)

Re:Insufficient technical information (1)

redelm (54142) | about 7 years ago | (#18611783)

the newer 747 have much more powerful engines, so can handle increased weight. My point was about design philosophy. Aircraft are always designed tight and light. Whether it's used or just saves fuel is a totally different question.

Re:Insufficient technical information (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18611179)

How about the fact that Cellular phones don't work in the air? That should be enough reason to not use them on a plane.

Re:Insufficient technical information (1)

dharbee (1076687) | about 7 years ago | (#18611197)

I was once on a phone call with a friend who had just landed when I heard the conversation between the pilot and the tower. My friend, on the other end, did not.

Just one anecdote, but that convinced me.

Re:Insufficient technical information (1)

Detritus (11846) | about 7 years ago | (#18611201)

How many corpses do you want?

Ten people died on Crossair flight LX 498.

Re:Insufficient technical information (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | about 7 years ago | (#18611213)

There's gotta be another reason that nobody's talking about.

Lawsuits. Better to just ban them, than spending millions on stupid lawsuits.

"Having lost both wings and the tail to a meteorite, the plane was obviously unable to land safely due to the use of a cell phone by one passenger."

Re:Insufficient technical information (1)

rucs_hack (784150) | about 7 years ago | (#18611231)

oh that's easy, follow the money.

What does a mobile phone ban mean? High cost in house alternatives. 'Certified' safe services that on close inspection will turn out to be essentially identical, but differentiated by being closely controlled (aka, offered at significant cost by a vendor without competition).

Oh there will be all sorts of justification, but it will boil down to 'by fixing this ban we can make bucket loads of cash'.

Re:Insufficient technical information (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | about 7 years ago | (#18611361)

So why the ban? Erring on the side of caution? Gimme a break. There's gotta be another reason that nobody's talking about.
I don't have a problem believing that the FAA is erring on the side of caution. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence [nasa.gov] relating to it. And, since the FAA is responsible for passenger safety, I'm sure they prefer to err on the side of caution.

Re:Insufficient technical information (1)

genner (694963) | about 7 years ago | (#18611725)

Anecdotal evidence is the best kind ;)

Sarcasm aside this will make life easier for people like me who perfer to talk to people face to face.

Re:Insufficient technical information (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | about 7 years ago | (#18611463)

So why the ban? Erring on the side of caution? Gimme a break. There's gotta be another reason that nobody's talking about.

[sarcasm]I can't think of any reason why an agency responsible for safety of airplanes would be cautious when it comes to safety. None at all. And another thing, this ban on smoking, I'm sure that is the work of the alcohol lobby so that there is only one vice on the plane.[/sarcasm]

Re:Insufficient technical information (5, Insightful)

FlyByWire63 (992071) | about 7 years ago | (#18611529)

As a pilot (25 years and counting), I've not had much luck with my cell phone(Verizon) working above 10,000 feet. That's in a plane that has a lot of glass space. I'll get a signal for 5 to 10 seconds and then the call will be dropped. This isn't over the middle of nowhere, it's over central Ohio! I've tried it in several locations where I've flown including the Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Chicago areas and I keep getting the same result. In some cases, I have no luck above 8k ft. I typically fly light singles and twins, so there isn't as much aluminum shielding around me as there would be in a jet. I think that once you reach a certain altitude, your phone hits too many cell sites at once and the whole system becomes confused, so in retaliation, your call is dropped. I'm not sure what the ERP of a cell phone would be at or above 10k ft. On a jet at 39,000 feet shielded with plenty of aluminum, I seriously doubt you would get any usable signal anyway. And yeah... I can see the headline when some passenger pummels another to death with a copy of the Sunday New York Times for pontificating on a cell phone during a flight!

only because Samuel Jackson showed up and said: (5, Funny)

physicsboy500 (645835) | about 7 years ago | (#18610865)

"I'm sick and tired, of these muthaf**king phones, on these muchaf**king planes!" The sequil comes out this August!

Re:only because Samuel Jackson showed up and said: (5, Funny)

KernelMuncher (989766) | about 7 years ago | (#18611071)

Cell Phones on a Plane

Staring Samuel Jackson

Plot: FCC gives clearance to use cell phones while in the air. The first NY to LA flight on a 747 has 400 people talking at the same time. After 30 minutes passengers start to get frustrated with each other. Fist fights break out. Soon it turns into the Ultimate Fighting Championship in the air.

Sequel: Snakes with Cell Phones on a Plane

Re:only because Samuel Jackson showed up and said: (1)

mobby_6kl (668092) | about 7 years ago | (#18611579)

Ah, so you're the reason my SoaP joke was modded redundant. I didn't see this one when I was writing mine. Still, IMHO my version should be modded up too since it's uncensored, exactly like Samuel Jackson references are supposed to be made.

Good (5, Insightful)

wiz31337 (154231) | about 7 years ago | (#18610867)

I really don't want to be stuck inches away from someone talking way too loud for several hours anyway.

Business travel is stressful enough the way it is and being "out of touch" from the office may be the best part of the trip. If they allow cell phones on airplanes that means I will be expected to work while I am on the plane as well. Get 20 people on a plane doing that and it is going to be really annoying to everyone else.

Why cellphones on a plane? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18610881)

I still don't understand why anyone would want to use their cell phones in an airplane in the first place. If they do implement it, the airline company would charge a fee to relay the cellphone signal from the plane's receivers/transmitters to the telco, so why not just use the wired phones that are already installed on the plane?

Re:Why cellphones on a plane? (5, Funny)

voice_of_all_reason (926702) | about 7 years ago | (#18610975)

so why not just use the wired phones that are already installed on the plane?

The per-minute cost is approximately infinity billion dollars.

Re:Why cellphones on a plane? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18611399)

Plus tax.

Re:Why cellphones on a plane? (1)

dal20402 (895630) | about 7 years ago | (#18611535)

If you talk about work for half an hour on a phone that costs infinity billion dollars per minute, you get to look and feel more important.

Seriously, that's the only reason people are on the phone half the time anyway. 90% of the conversations, even business ones, could wait until the parties are not driving or in public.

Re:Why cellphones on a plane? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18611563)

That's because it's a "you're an annoying fuckwit" fine, not a service fee.

Of course that means that no matter how high it is, it's not nearly as high as it should be.

frequencies (1)

andy314159pi (787550) | about 7 years ago | (#18610895)

I think that I read that most communication with air traffic control is done at very long wavelength, low frequencies because they have traditionally thought to propagate better than high frequency communications. And cell phones use microwave or shorter frequencies, I think. But maybe some devices in the airplane use high frequencies for short distance communications, but I doubt it.

Re:frequencies (4, Informative)

Radon360 (951529) | about 7 years ago | (#18611119)

Aircraft communications and navigation typically take place at VHF frequencies, between 108-132MHz. Voice communication is almost always AM in this frequency range.

Cell phones ~824-894MHz (traditional cellular) ~1900MHz (PCS - Sprint, Verizon, et al) - In the United States, anyway.

Regardless, the issue isn't interference with Avionics and communication, but the implications it would have on the cell network with one handset being able to reach (interfere with) hundreds of towers at one time.

Re:frequencies (1)

andy314159pi (787550) | about 7 years ago | (#18611169)

Regardless, the issue isn't interference with Avionics and communication, but the implications it would have on the cell network with one handset being able to reach (interfere with) hundreds of towers at one time.

I see. That makes sense. And also I didn't even think about the obvious point everyone has brought up about not wanting to be on the airplane with a bunch of yakity yacks.

What about Doppler? (1)

bruguiea (1038034) | about 7 years ago | (#18611681)

I am wondering if cell phones will even work. There is quite a Doppler effect to take into account. The frequency shift can be quite big and cell phones are usually designed to work up to certain speeds.

Then, the elevation changes things... but that would require some hard data that I don't have and a little bit of trigonometry...

I think maybe, I dunno (1)

wsanders (114993) | about 7 years ago | (#18611309)

I'd mod funny, I think, but I dunno. Being a pilot, as far as I know, when I use the radio thingy, in my plane, it uses some frequencies in the VHF, like 99% of what seems to be most air traffic control communications. Except for those. Which, actually, is a very long wave, if you're a cell phone.

I don't think a cell phone has ever interfered with ATC, except for maybe once or twice, Or maybe not ever, or more times than that. My opinion, if anyone gives a s***, is that The Man doesn't want to make air travel any more of a Living Hell than it already is, mostly, except for sometimes.

Re:I think maybe, I dunno (3, Funny)

andy314159pi (787550) | about 7 years ago | (#18611565)

Being a pilot, as far as I know
You should definitely try and figure out if you're a pilot or not.

Forget about the technical reasons (3, Interesting)

jaymaxSEA (1044192) | about 7 years ago | (#18610929)

assuming the technical reasons are even valid. How about banning cell phones in the air as a safety issue? Rapidly deteriorating service in the air, smaller seats, little bits of terrible food if at all, lost luggage, delays, rude employees, rude travelers, overbooked flights and then someone wants the ability to chat on their phone for the entirety of the flight. Can you say air rage?

Right Decision, Wrong Reason (4, Insightful)

illegalcortex (1007791) | about 7 years ago | (#18611409)

That's exactly what I was saying. Why don't the FAA just come out with a ban that's simply based on this reasoning? Loud talking is banned in public libraries and cellphone use is banned in moving vehicles in some states, so why can't they ban cellphones on planes? I think if you took a poll of most psychologists, I think they'd back you up that having to listen to a plane full of people's cellphone conversations is like sitting on a powder keg.

Summary could be concised... (3, Funny)

voice_of_all_reason (926702) | about 7 years ago | (#18610939)

for fear they will interfere with navigational and communications systems

for fear they will interfere

fear


It's afraid...

As a significant business traveler (5, Interesting)

blantonl (784786) | about 7 years ago | (#18611009)

.. I cannot tell you how elated I am to hear this news.

Nothing amuses me more than the high-end muscle-man salesman that strolls through an airport terminal with a bluetooth device in his hear, extolling the virtues of his latest deal that he closed, how drunk he got the night before, and where he was heading next. All the while strolling like there is something up his but, and his hands are waving in the air like he's swatting flies or something buzzing around his head - maybe it's his arrogance.

But while it is amazing, it is also irritating, and the thought of having to deal with that type of behavior AFTER the door is shut scares the living hell out of me. The only people that might benefit from something like this rule change would be Bose - as I'm sure they would sell 1000's of additional Acoustic Noise Canceling Headphones.

Furthermore, being that you would be 6 miles up in the sky, in an aluminum shielded tube, I cannot even imagine that you would get good coverage from within the airplane. I'm willing to bet that maintaining a call even for just a few minutes would be a hassle. Imagine that beefy salesman screaming into his bluetooth headset "can you hear me... hold one, let me get up and find a better signal" - all the while he's walking up and down the aisle, "Can you hear me NOW?" and holding the phone up to an airplane window in the galley.

Man it would be a disaster. He would either get his ass kicked by someone, or lose the deal because he thought he could hold the con call from the airplane.

Thank You FCC. you did everyone a favor.

Re:As a significant business traveler (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18611167)

but it keeps that verizon dude in a job, hes got a whole new area to play in. 'can you hear me now?'

BOSE QC3 Headphones (0)

Radon360 (951529) | about 7 years ago | (#18611227)

I have a pair...they're wonderful (thankfully, I received them as a gift as they're damned expensive). While they are nearly 100% effective at removing the drone and rumbling sounds of the plane, they're still not totally effective at cancelling out human voices. Part of the problem is that our skulls do part of the work of hearing, making it difficult to make a totally cancelling waveform. So when people drone on inanely or cough incessantly, that's where the MP3 player comes in quite handily (which plugs into them).

Cellphones on a plane (-1, Redundant)

mobby_6kl (668092) | about 7 years ago | (#18611045)

So I guess the FCC has had it with the motherfucking phones on the motherfucking planes!

Oh I'm so sorry. Well, not really, but I said that just in case.

Cellphones were used during the 9/11 hijackings (1, Informative)

ribuck (943217) | about 7 years ago | (#18611095)

Cellphones were used effectively by passengers and cabin crew during the 9/11 hijackings, apparently without messing up ground communications.

Logically, if it's a technical problem using a cellphone from a plane, it would also be a problem using it from the top of a tall building. In a metropolitan area, the top of a skyscraper would be "line of sight" to hundreds of cellphone towers.

Re:Cellphones were used during the 9/11 hijackings (2, Informative)

east coast (590680) | about 7 years ago | (#18611217)

My understanding is that the planes were not at normal cruising heights. I'm not sure about this. And also consider that it was a handful of users, imagine this at a large terminal where there is the potential to have hundreds or even thousands of users switching in and out of local cell towers on a regular basis.

Just some thoughts, I honestly don't know what the answers are.

Re:Cellphones were used during the 9/11 hijackings (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18611301)

Tops of skyscrapers don't pass through service cells at 1000kph.

Re:Cellphones were used during the 9/11 hijackings (4, Interesting)

garcia (6573) | about 7 years ago | (#18611359)

This isn't scientific evidence of mobile phone interruption from planes, but just about everytime a plane would fly over my apartment while on (low) approach to MSP my own calls would drop. It only happened as I heard the planes overhead -- never any other time.

Now, I know that people (like my father) refuse to turn their phones off while in flight because "the FCC doesn't know their heads from third base" (as he likes to state so frequently) but for me, while living there, it sucked.

I have planes on approach to MSP where I live now but I rarely use my mobile for voice calls so I don't notice the dropped calls as much and/or because they are at a much higher altitude and aren't flying as frequently over that route, I don't notice the problem.

Re:Cellphones were used during the 9/11 hijackings (1)

dal20402 (895630) | about 7 years ago | (#18611673)

Now, I know that people (like my father) refuse to turn their phones off while in flight

Well, I hope they enjoy the reduced battery life as the phone switches into high-power mode over and over again when it can't find a signal or switches between cells... I accidentally left my phone on once on a 5-hour flight. It was fully charged when I drove to the airport, and dead about an hour after I got off the plane. The battery normally lasts about 4 days.

Even if there's no interference with flight systems (and I've heard what seem like persuasive anecdotes that there can be, especially on older planes such as the numerous DC-9/MD-80s and 737-300/400/500s in the US fleet), that's a good enough reason to turn it off right there. Plus, if your father actually uses his phone in flight, I and about 10 other passengers will kick his ass.

Re:Cellphones were used during the 9/11 hijackings (2, Informative)

Radon360 (951529) | about 7 years ago | (#18611381)

Cellphones were used effectively by passengers and cabin crew during the 9/11 hijackings, apparently without messing up ground communications.

Has anyone studied this? I have little doubt that they were able to successfully make calls, but interference isn't an all or nothing condition. A couple of calls coming from one plane probably created a negligible amount of interference. Scale that up to several thousand planes, what happens at that point?

As for the skyscraper argument, I give you credit for its insightfulness, but I'd also counter that with saying that the glass in most large building like that have metallic coatings to reflect heat. These coatings also attenuate cell phone signals, thus reducing their effective radiation footprint somewhat. Add to this that the tallest buildings are ~1,500feet, not ~35,000feet.

Re:Cellphones were used during the 9/11 hijackings (2, Interesting)

CheeseTroll (696413) | about 7 years ago | (#18611395)

It isn't just being in range of several towers at once, it's the rapid switching from tower to tower as the airplane cruises at 500+ mph.

Re:Cellphones were used during the 9/11 hijackings (1)

bcattwoo (737354) | about 7 years ago | (#18611415)

Cellphones were used effectively by passengers and cabin crew during the 9/11 hijackings, apparently without messing up ground communications.
But that was maybe a couple dozen people on a few planes. I imagine it would be a different story if the thousands of people in a holding pattern around a major airport all decided to call home and tell someone they were going to be late.

Logically, if it's a technical problem using a cellphone from a plane, it would also be a problem using it from the top of a tall building. In a metropolitan area, the top of a skyscraper would be "line of sight" to hundreds of cellphone towers.
Most skyscrapers are still pretty low compared to an airplane. Perhaps the fact that a person in a skyscraper is not moving at 600 mph and not rapidly switching between cell towers is important, too.

Re:Cellphones were used during the 9/11 hijackings (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18611467)

Yes, and it's a good thing they were not banned back then. How else would we know that the planes were "hijacked by islamic looking man, using knifes".

I mean, the phones seem to just work up there, 10.000m above ground, inside a faraday cage, so it's up to us not to use them, right?

Re:Cellphones were used during the 9/11 hijackings (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 7 years ago | (#18611525)

Cellphones were used effectively by passengers and cabin crew during the 9/11 hijackings, apparently without messing up ground communications.

So what? You can't really effectively extrapolate from a handful of aircraft scattered across a large volume of airspace for an hour or so to the effects on (for example) the airspace near O'Hare or Hartsfield-Jackson, or dozens of other airports, on a day-in day-out basis.
 
 

Logically, if it's a technical problem using a cellphone from a plane, it would also be a problem using it from the top of a tall building. In a metropolitan area, the top of a skyscraper would be "line of sight" to hundreds of cellphone towers.

I shouldn't have to point out that tall buildings aren't moving at hundreds of miles per hour in relation to those towers. There's orders of magnitudes difference between the two switching problems. (The problem of connectivity to a moving car isn't in the same ballpark either.)

Re:Cellphones were used during the 9/11 hijackings (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18611685)

Yeah, I honestly don't see how. To me, that's further proof that the events of 9/11 are a hoax. Have you ever actually TRIED to make a phone call while in the air? I have... multiple times. Can't be done. The only time I have ever had any level of success was during landing. (That was an embarrassing moment... when I get email on my crackberry, it's the sound of 'special ed' exclaiming "I got mail! Yaaaay yaaaaay!") Well, I turned my phone on to see if I could get a signal before landing... nothing. So I holstered it. Then as we were on approach, "I got mail! Yaaaay yaaaaay!" over and over again as my email was being sent to my crackberry one after the other. The damned thing wouldn't stop. And it was LOUD. And every pair of eyes were on me. But that only happened when we were on approach and the plane was relatively low to the ground.

Does anyone allow this? (2, Interesting)

east coast (590680) | about 7 years ago | (#18611165)

So it's not going to happen in the US. Have other countries let flyers use their phones on a plane? Have there been marked results for this?

this will be moot when in-air wifi rolls out (3, Insightful)

daniel422 (905483) | about 7 years ago | (#18611211)

All I can hope for is that they continue to ban the use of headsets. I don't mind someone emailing or (OMG) IMing. At least it's quiet and I'm not held hostage to their innane conversation. Didn't I just see a story on this that several airlines are rolling out wifi? And the difference is....? I guess it's slightly lower power, but wifi runs the same interference risks as cell phones.
As for the "technical" reasons. Completely bunk. Modern airplanes have all their signal wires twisted pair and shielded (very RF immune). While it IS possible for cell phones to create considerable interference (particularly GSM), airline systems are VERY well shielded. I seem to recall a "Mythbusters" episode (yes.. the paragons of the scientific process) that also confirmed this. The thought that it would interfere with ground based systems is simply rediculous. What ground based systems? Other cell networks? No. Airline communications? No -- totally different frequency band. Somebody give me a good example of where your cell phone was interfering in ground based systems while in your car (not your unshielded car stereo with a GSM phone). There is no difference between being on the ground or in the air. And no -- there is NO problem with communicating with a cell tower several miles DOWN -- with nothing in your way except the airplane fuselage. You'd actually get pretty good reception. Antenna sensitivity is also a function of height (and how much is in the way).

Re:this will be moot when in-air wifi rolls out (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18611313)

you dont get good reception. i NEVER switch my phone off and occasionally peek at it when in the air on dozens of flights and ive always had zero signal strength. this is flights all across the US at varying altitudes.

Re:this will be moot when in-air wifi rolls out (3, Informative)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about 7 years ago | (#18611473)

The thought that it would interfere with ground based systems is simply rediculous. What ground based systems? Other cell networks? No.

Perhaps "rediculous", but, yes, that is the valid concern.

There is no difference between being on the ground or in the air. And no -- there is NO problem with communicating with a cell tower several miles DOWN -- with nothing in your way except the airplane fuselage. You'd actually get pretty good reception. Antenna sensitivity is also a function of height (and how much is in the way).

One of the ways that cellular providers reuse the spectrum is by dividing the landscape into . . . "cells". There are arrays of antennas in these cells that communicate with the instruments in the area. Additional spectral efficiency is gained by subdividing the cells and only using the antenna array pointing in your direction to communicate with your phone. The landscape is modeled as a 2-d environment for these purposes. The cell networks take all this landscape into account when they deploy their systems. If you want to use an additional component of altitude to the mix, you'd need different antenna arrays and you'd need to re-layout the whole mess. For these reasons, the FCC does not allow cell phone use in planes, helicopters, balloons, etc. As you say, it's a straight shot from an airplane to cell towers below -- including towers that you couldn't "see" (radio-wise) if you were on the ground directly below.

Re:this will be moot when in-air wifi rolls out (1)

Detritus (11846) | about 7 years ago | (#18611765)

Completely bunk. Modern airplanes have all their signal wires twisted pair and shielded (very RF immune).

Many aircraft have substantial amounts of unshielded wiring. Shields often break due to age and mechanical abuse.

Mythbusters is entertainment, not science or engineering.

Cool! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18611221)

I'm one of those people who sleep through the whole flight and I welcome this.

Re:Cool! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18611523)

The best thing about sleeping on a plane is that if you crash you will either die in your sleep or wake up just in time to shit your pants.

Yet at the same time... (1)

Richard Bannister (464181) | about 7 years ago | (#18611245)

Ryanair has announced that their entire fleet is being fitted with equipment to allow calls on board. Ryanair don't fly to the USA (yet!) but it does raise the question as to whether the FCC would have jurisdiction over a non-US airline.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/5298332.stm [bbc.co.uk]

Re:Yet at the same time... (1)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | about 7 years ago | (#18611551)

Ryanair has announced that their entire fleet is being fitted with equipment to allow calls on board. Ryanair don't fly to the USA (yet!) but it does raise the question as to whether the FCC would have jurisdiction over a non-US airline.

If they're over US airspace, have a feeling they do.

Re:Yet at the same time... (1)

bcattwoo (737354) | about 7 years ago | (#18611629)

Ryanair has announced that their entire fleet is being fitted with equipment to allow calls on board. Ryanair don't fly to the USA (yet!) but it does raise the question as to whether the FCC would have jurisdiction over a non-US airline.

Why wouldn't they? Unless they are going to send their planes over the internet, they will have to obey U.S. laws and regulations just like any other business that physically operates in the U.S.

Re:Yet at the same time... (1)

Toreo asesino (951231) | about 7 years ago | (#18611789)

Er, what? Ryanair is so far disconnected from the US of A it's unreal. FCC laws are irrelevant in Ireland/EU airspace.
In fact, last I heard the EU & Airbus were trailing to allow mobile-phones for "domestic" EU flights which is no bad thing IMO. Long-haul is something else though.

They don't interfere! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18611311)

I always leave my cell in the on position for every flight I take, over 20 R/T a year.. But I do always turn the ringer off

Halla-fuckin-lujah (1)

Ranger (1783) | about 7 years ago | (#18611389)

Now if they'll just ban extremely loud stereos in cars. Or issue portable EMP [wikipedia.org] guns to disable them.

Two words: Wifi VoIP (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18611393)

This is good news for VoIP services, as wifi is being allowed -- provided the wifi speed and lag in planes is acceptable for VoIP. Anyone has info on this?

Re:Two words: Wifi VoIP (3, Interesting)

Radon360 (951529) | about 7 years ago | (#18611777)

Well, it would depend on the relay design of such a system. If the plane interacts directly with ground-based stations, it will probably work fine. However, a couple of proposals that I saw called for uplinking to satellites, geostationary or otherwise. Both can create a varying amount of delay. While VoIP could technically still work with a sat link, the delay through it could become particularly annoying...especially if the link were through a geostationary bird, rather than ones in low earth orbit.

Cell phones can cause interference (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18611457)

In truth cell phones can cause interference to airplane instrumentation; on modern instruments, it is very minimal if any at all. Also, modern airplanes have shielded cable and electronic devices to protect from signal interference.

To the most part, cell phones won't be an issue however they can generate huge signal spikes when first turned on; for me I rather not take that chance.

Cosmic Radiation Shield ? (1)

The Media Mechanic (1084283) | about 7 years ago | (#18611477)

Hmm, does anybody know if it possible to use my cell phone as a cosmic radiation shield at 35,000 feet ? Just kidding... I know this is ridiculous. Testing my new Slashdot account !

great news (1)

ScottyMcScott (1003155) | about 7 years ago | (#18611585)

Well I hope this holds up, I remember reading an article in the nytimes about google's transportation system: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/10/technology/10goo gle.html?ei=5088&en=dcb412d03d29e1f6&ex=1331182800 &pagewanted=print [nytimes.com] and in the article it states: "inside, most riders appeared to abide by the shuttle's etiquette rules. Cellphone conversations are allowed if they are work-related and sotto voce. But loud personal calls are definitely out." This reminded me of the (at the time) FCC impending decision. Technical reasons aside, if any reason should be enough to not allow people to use cellphones on the planes it would be for courtsey and etiquette.
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