Phones on planes?

The US-based Federal Communications Commission has proposed to relax its current ban on the use of cellular telephones on airborne aircraft.

The US-based Federal Communications Commission has proposed to relax its current ban on the use of cellular telephones on airborne aircraft.

The Commission’s rules currently require that cellular handsets be turned off once an aircraft leaves the ground to avoid interfering with terrestrial cellular systems.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations also currently restrict the use of mobile telephones and other portable electronic devices (PEDs) on aircraft to ensure against interference to onboard communications and navigation equipment.

Now, however, the Commission has proposed to permit the airborne operation of “off the shelf” wireless handsets and other devices so long as the device operates at its lowest power setting under control of a “pico cell” located on the aircraft, and the operation does not allow unwanted radio frequency emissions to interfere with terrestrial cellular systems.

The Commission asked for public comment on whether the proposal should apply only to devices operating in 800 MHz cellular spectrum, or whether devices operating on other spectrum bands, such as the PCS band or Advanced Wireless Services bands, should be included.

In a related action, the Commission also restructured the rules for the air-ground radio telephone service, currently provided by Verizon Airfone, and proposed auction rules for that spectrum.