FCC to Allow Wireless Access on Planes


“The unanimous vote by the Federal Communications Commission means air travelers could be surfing the Web by 2006.”


Just another place I can check what’s going on here on CD. :slight_smile:

<note to self> buy either a wireless card for my notebook, or a new laptop before 2006.

I see one problem…well, two, actually.

First, with my luck, I will be stuck by some chatterbox that keeps their cell phone glued to their ear from Columbia to Los Angeles.

Second, I feel bad for those business travelers who have legitimately been able to use “I can’t have my cell phone on” as an excuse to get some sleep or time away from the boss. Now there’s no excuse. Poor things.

I would be ready to kill someone who sat there on the phone nonstop for 6-7 hours (depending on which way I’m going) from Boston to SFO. And I know there’s many people that would do it too.

We may not be able to carry edged weapons on board aircraft any more, but I can guarantee that any moron that sits next to me on a cross country flight talking on his cell phone for the entire time will soon find out how much damage I can do to their phone with the heal of my boot…


No Dave! If you do that, then we won’t even be allowed to wear shoes on planes anymore! They’ll just give us little paper slipper things, like the doctors wear in operating rooms!

Can people even get a wireless signal while cruising at 20-30,000 ft?

I really don’t think so. Heck, I have trouble getting a signal in some spots along my 12-minute commute from home to work.

Andy B.

<edit: these thoughts are totally wrong… I should stick to mechanical design and go back to work>

The article says that the FCC has voted to allow travelers to access “high speed internet” while on the planes, not just any wireless access.

The FCC also voted to solicit comments from the public about ending the ban on in-flight use of cell phones. Among the issues to consider are whether passengers want to be surrounded by cell phone conversations.

“The ability to communicate is a vital one, but good cell phone etiquette is also essential,” Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein said. “Our job is to see if this is possible and then let consumers work out the etiquette.”

Still, airlines must weigh the demand for such service against the desire of other passengers for a quiet cabin, Wills said. “Some people see a cell-free environment as a good thing,” he said.

So the vote they took to allow wireless internet access will not allow passengers to use cell phones…at least not yet :rolleyes:.

But Andy Baker brings up a good point about the signal being available at the flight altitude. They are adding technology to planes to allow it to receive the internet connection and it will not be capable for cell-phone use.

I see this as a great step foward for the airline industry.

I think when you’re using a radio on an airplane at 20,000 feet it’s similar to having a 20,000-foot tall antenna tower, so you could probably get a decent signal. Cell phone signals (900 MHz - 1.9 GHz) tend to like line-of-sight, so aside from the metal tube you’re flying in that’s pretty much what you would have. For example, from my house I can hear airplanes talking to Chicago Air Traffic Control but I can’t hear Chicago talking to them.

Though I’m a ham, I’m not really an antenna guru…hopefully somebody who operates “aeronautical mobile” knows more about it :slight_smile:

EDIT: I’m guessing they don’t want people using cell phones on airliners yet because they would have really strong signals and possibly confuse the towers on the ground. Wireless network (802.11) is much lower signal, so the clients would probably only connect to the plane. The plane itself would then use a different method to get it’s Internet access. Just on educated guess… :confused:


Yes you can-- i uh- mistakingly left my phone on on teh way to IRI… i had full signal. you are in “direct light of sight” of many (20+) cell towers all at the same time. The signal is great, but i believe some wireless carriers will block off your cell phone if you are connected to too many of their towers (you will overload their system).

Either way, its no the cell phone conversations I am interested in, i really want to be able to surf the web on my cross-country flights… nothing better than loading up a flight tracker online to track the plane you are in :slight_smile:


Though I dont fly much (actually I dont really fly at all anymore) this is interesting. I ran across this a few weeks ago in another forum about cell phones. I guess the new phone I got (dont have yet, xmas present) has an “Airplane Mode” on it that disables the transmitting functions. Page 2 of this thread has some interesting information.

Last July, American Airline and Qualcomm did a demo of a cellular base station on-board an airplane that was connected to the ground based system. This made in-flight calls possible.

The main problem with in-flight calling is that cell transmission equipment isn’t designed to broadcast up. Some signal gets some altitude…but little. There may be some difference to this in HEAVILY towered areas such as Huston, New York, L.A., etc.

But apparently, the in-flight calling ban lift will be brought up for the first time on Wednesday at the FAA meeting. FAA has said that extensive research will have to be done. The results report isn’t due until 2006. We may not see a lift in this regulation until 2007…possible 2008…unless they re-vamp their schedule.

I thought I turned my phone off when I was coming back to Boston over thanksgiving break, but apparently it decided to turn itself back on… I was pretty surprised when it woke me up and started beeping and vibrating when someone called me in the middle of the flight :rolleyes: