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EU greenlights cell calls on aircraft

updated 10:00 am EDT, Mon April 7, 2008

EU Greenlights In-Air Call

The European Commission today opened the doors to cellphone service on commercial flights over the territory. Ending a near-universal ban on the practice, the organization has set out rules and established technology that it says should allow calling without endangering aircraft. Phones that support the 1,800MHz phone band will have the option of both making and receiving calls as well as SMS text messages while in flight. By using the specific frequency, airlines can force cellphones to connect to the picocell that shares the wireless connection rather than create interference with the aircraft's electronics, which can theoretically occur when the phones boost their signal strength to reach ground towers.

Flights will be safeguarded by preventing any phone use until an aircraft is at least 9,800 feet above the ground. Pilots will also have the option of shutting off the picocell themselves if it ever creates problems during a flight. Carriers further have the freedom to set additional rules for phone use and can require that callers set their phones to vibrate mode or keep voices low to avoid disturbing other passengers.

These services will vary in cost but are expected to cost no more than roaming on a normal ground-based network outside of the caller's normal coverage area. However, rules on roaming costs set last year don't apply as they only touch on ground-based services, the EC warns.

The relaxed conditions are expected to have a significant impact on European travel and the use of handsets on aircraft around the world by serving as a demonstration of the validity of in-flight calls. It's also anticipated to have a short-term impact on non-European travelers as in-air phone providers can establish roaming agreements that let calls take place either in strictly international waters or over countries with roaming agreements.

by MacNN Staff



  1. JeffHarris

    Joined: Dec 1969



    As if screaming babies and whining children running uncontrolled up and down the aisles isn't bad enough… Now we'll get to hear people's yelling into their cellphones.

    If you've never ridden a commuter train at rush hour, you're in for a treat!

    Gee, I can hardly wait!

  1. UberFu

    Joined: Dec 1969


    funny thing is...

    where is the proof? Where is the conclusive study that says this actually occurs?

    "create interference with the aircraft's electronics, which can theoretically occur when the phones boost their signal strength to reach ground towers"

    Where's the data that shows hundreds of crashed or nearly downed aircraft to support this claim in the first place?

    The label that comes with each of my electronic devices that say FCC approved as a non-interference device for use really means nothing? ----------------

    @jeffharris - I bring my iPod with some headphones and ignore all the non-sense around me on flights - works great_ Music soothes the beast and all that_

  1. UberFu

    Joined: Dec 1969


    oh yeah MacNN...

    how does this relate to the Mac again?

    You forgot to tie this article in with how cellphone access will affect the Macintosh?

    Maybe you should really start thinking about changing your title from MacNN to something else entirely - seeing as how MacNN these days - less and less has anything much to do with actual Macintoshes_

  1. boulder1259

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Jeff, I agree...

    If you sit next to an overly chatty passenger now, they usually figure out that you may have other things to do (e.g., preparing for the meeting at your destination, etc.) within a few minutes. Now, there will be know way to deal with this.

    uberfu, I shouldn't have to wear headphones. People should be considerate enough to realize that their rights end where another person's begins.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: funny thing is...

    Man, don't you watch Mythbusters? (As stupid as it generally is, if you watch it for just the science content and fast forward through the 'comic interludes', it ain't that bad).

    But they say it only allows a specific frequency (which talks to their own internal 'tower'). But how will the prevent someone from using their non-approved phone?

    BTW, the sharks...erm...I mean lawyers acting in the best interest of their clients...are just chomping at the bit...erm...praying a tragedy doesn't occur that requires their services...that a plane crash is 'proved' to be caused by cell-phone usage. Because they've know there's a whole chunk of cash...erm...a lot of those cell companies for not putting big yellow warning stickers on their phones telling you not to use it in flight.

  1. rsande

    Joined: Dec 1969



    that's why it was posted on Electronista, not MacNN. owned by the same people, yes, but that doesn't mean it's Mac only news. it's like thinking just because kraft is owned by a tobacco company they put nicotine in velveeta.

    damn I need some cheese.

  1. LtCarter47

    Joined: Dec 1969



    to be fair, it is in the MacNN RSS feed. They should provide a separate feed for each site, not cram them into one.

  1. ender

    Joined: Dec 1969


    re: funny thing is...

    While I'm not disagreeing with you that the concern is way overstated, you can't hardly point to the lack of crashes as evidence that there isn't interference because until now, cell phone use was banned. Therefore, it happend so infrequently that you can't draw any firm conclusions based on that alone.

    There have been studies that show interference, but it's hypothetical because it required very specific circumstances and a cell phone transmitting much more power than it could actually put out. It's sort of like the old study that showed drinking 20 cans of Coke a day for 20 years causes cancer. The link is not practical.

    As for FCC stickers claiming non-interference, it's all within a certain level of tolerance. Set an ATT GSM phone within about 3-5 feet of a powered speaker phone or a radio speaker. You can hear the pops and clicks every time it checks in with the cell network. Or how about when microwave ovens interfere with your wi-fi network? So much for non-interference!

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: @rsande

    They do have different feeds, don't they? They certainly have different sites. Yet such stories as these still show up.

    Of course, you could just ignore the story.

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