Saturday, May 28, 2005

Cell Phones In Flight

As a wireless company executive, and a frequent flier, this is not what I've been looking forward to.

There are some reasons I would like to see this happen. First, I would like to keep up with my e-mail, and browse the Internet while I have 2 or 3 hours to do nothing better. Second, I make money selling cell phones.

There are a lot more reasons why I think this is a bad idea. First, and foremost, I don't look forward to listening to half a dozen "important business" conversations. I can't say my flights are always quiet, but magazine pages and laptop keyboards, even the occasional infant who is just as annoyed with their ears popping as I am, are tranquility compared to an airplane with dozens of simultanious cell phone conversations. Sorry, I just thought of something worse. There will also be dozen's of phones ringing in these tight quarters. "Ma'am, please don't stop your baby from crying, it's a lot more soothing than that guy's "old fashioned phone" ring tone." My second reason why its a bad idea is that after everyone (FCC, FAA, TSA, FDA, USDA, Etc.) has approved it, it may not work anyway. As the article linked above mentions, the cellular networks were designed for people in cars, not in airplanes. There needs to be some studies to see if this will work, or if it will mess up the cellular companies networks. Heck, I know spots where the cellular companies can't hand off a call from one tower to another when I'm travelling at 70 miles per hour on the road. How much luck are they going to have when I'm 36,000 feet overhead and traveling 350 MPH? The answer is "not much". I have left my phone turned on durring some flights. A couple times it was intentional. I can tell you from personal experience, your phone won't work at 36,000 feet and 350 miles per hour.

For better or worse, it will work someday. Companies have been working for years to find out what they need to do to make it work. If you can get satellite TV (Jet Blue) or WiFi (Virgin Atlantic) on an airplane, a phone conversation should be a piece of cake. If they limit usage to wireless data applications, I can live with that. In fact, I'd be elated. If the airplane becomes a flying phone booth, I'm buying a ton of Bose stock.

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