Airplane passengers can now use personal electronic devices throughout flights, thanks to a recent rule change. The next frontier: Making cellphone calls during flights.
The Washington Post’s Brian Fung reports that the Federal Communications Commission plans to propose allowing travelers to use their phones to make calls and transmit data during flights.
If approved, the new guidelines would let airlines install special equipment to relay wireless signals from the plane to the ground, likely by way of a satellite connection. A similar system already exists in Europe. Last week, the European Commission approved passengers’ use of 3G and 4G data from airplanes.
This comes on the heels of the Federal Aviation Administration’s recent pronouncement that air travelers no longer have to turn their phones to airplane mode (or whatever it should now be called). That change stemmed from a report issued by a group tasked with studying how to expand the use of electronic devices during flights.
When that committee was assembled, the FAA noted that it was not going to contemplate whether cellphones could be used for calls during flights. That’s because the panel was organized by the FAA, while cellphone use during flights is governed by the FCC.
The FCC had contemplated lifting the cellphone use ban nearly a decade ago, but the agency decided in 2007 to leave the rules in place.
However, the report on electronic devices did note that phone calls are allowed on some non-U.S. airlines and added that cellphone technology has advanced considerably since the FCC last reviewed the cellphone ban.
“This raises the possibility that it may be appropriate for the FCC to again review its policies relative to cell phone use on planes, not only for international flights, but for U.S. domestic flights as well,” the report said.
The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday afternoon that the FCC’s proposal lifting the ban would allow travelers to make calls and use data plans once flights reach 10,000 feet.