FCC proposes allowing in-flight cellular use on airplanes

The plan would let users connect via mobile networks, but airlines could still ban voice calls

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission will consider letting passengers use cellular services on airplanes, breaking with a ban that has been in place for years.

At a meeting set for Dec. 12, the FCC will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to allow passengers to use mobile wireless services "via onboard airborne access systems," according to an agenda for the meeting that was released Thursday.

Both the FCC and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration have long restricted the use of both cell phones and other electronic devices in flight because of concerns about interference with navigation and other onboard electronics. The FAA recently eased regulations on using some electronic devices during takeoff and landing.

The FCC proposal would allow the use of mobile services that are now banned in flight. That would mean passengers could get online and potentially make voice calls over cellular services and not just the in-flight Wi-Fi provided on many flights today. They would access the cellular services via equipment on the plane rather than cellphone towers on the ground. Airlines could still restrict voice calls in flight, just as the major U.S. airlines now ban Internet voice calls via Wi-Fi.

"Today, we circulated a proposal to expand consumer access and choice for in-flight mobile broadband," FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement. "Modern technologies can deliver mobile services in the air safely and reliably, and the time is right to review our outdated and restrictive rules. I look forward to working closely with my colleagues, the FAA, and the airline industry on this review of new mobile opportunities for consumers."

Passengers would only be allowed to use cellular services above 10,000 feet, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, which cited an FCC official.

An FCC representative could not immediately be reached for comment.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags regulationtransportationU.S. Federal Communications Commissionmobilegovernmentindustry verticals

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Stephen Lawson

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?