December 19, 2007


Interesting news from the aviation industry-- Mobile Phones and WiFi computers may soon be allowed on airplanes. I just recently read in the Economist that JetBlue has launched a limited Wi-Fi data service on one of its A320 planes in partnership with Yahoo and RIM. AirFrance is testing voice calling/text on an A318. Quantas, AeroMobile and other carriers have also been exploring different possibilities that allow passengers more connectivity while in the air.

The Federal Communications Comission (FCC) has long stood by its ban on cellular phones using the 800 MHz frequency and other wirless devices on airborne aircraft due to the potential interference to wireless networks on the ground. However, in the last few years they have been slowly allowing changes to these regulations, as more and more providers of in-flight wireless broadband and other communication services are using frequencies that do not interfere with ground communications. This is all happening in the wake of a study done by researchers from Carnagie Mellon came out with a study a year or so ago that stated that no matter what frequencies are used, when you put a large number of active mobile phones, computers, etc. in a small enclosed space like an airplane, there will inevitably be a "clear and present danger (yes, they actually used that term)." Whether there is any substantial proof in their study-- it does sound fairly compelling when you envision 300 + individuals yakking on their phones inside an airplane. Similar to how you really cannot prove that using a cell phone continuously gives you brain cancer, the Carnagie Mellon conclusion just sounds likely.

I suppose as a frequent flier I would be more concerned about the disruption it would cause me. Yes, I would be able to get a lot of work done if I could connect online while flying. However, the thought of clicking keyboards and loud conversations echoing through the claustrophobic airplane cabin does make one stop and think about whether this direction is really the best way to go. There is also that additional security risk in having Hijacker 1 converse with Hijacker 2 via SMS, which in many countries will prove to be a rather hefty variable to consider.

Presently, I am content writing emails and saving them in the outbox. The few quiet hours in the air (Unless you are flying Cebu Pacific) can be spent reflecting and planning, something that one does not always have when running about a busy day to day schedule.

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