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Friday, May 26, 2006

Cellphones on a plane!

Cell Phone, Life

Consumer advocates, trade groups, and even one phone company (Cingular) have gone on the record against phones on airplanes in flight. An early attempt at the service, Verizon (Research)'s Airfone, appealed to only the most desperate callers, thanks to its $4.99-per-minute rate and echo-chamber sound.

But now air carriers (which are hungry for any new revenue opportunity) and some mobile-phone carriers (which want to extend their reach to the skies) are pushing for changes in rules that will permit phone calls while in flight (see link.

As FORTUNE went to press, the FCC was holding an auction for two available licenses to provide high-speed telecom services on planes. While the auction was mostly about the right to offer in-flight Internet access, most industry observers believe no-holds-barred calling can't be far off.

There are already signs that regulatory resolve is on the wane. Right now the Federal Aviation Administration bans the use of regular mobile phones in flight for safety reasons. But last year the FAA gave preliminary approval for United Airlines to test Wi-Fi in flight.

I travel enough for work to know that this is just not a good idea. There are just some folks who are not able to control the volume of their voices when talking on the phone, and now we are going to have a plane full of these people. If you can't go without your cell phone for a few hours, then there are help groups for people like you. I think this is a bad idea all around.

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