“Want to surf the Net and phone the office at 35,000 feet? High-speed Internet and cell phone service in airplanes moved big steps closer to reality Wednesday, with regulators paving the way for both offerings in as soon as two years. In-flight broadband is further along than cell phone service. The Federal Communications Commission voted Wednesday to rearrange a chunk of spectrum to permit broadband in the skies by 2006. An auction for companies to bid for the airwaves will be held next near,” Paul Davidson reports for USA Today.
“Today, many domestic flights offer instant messaging, text messaging and e-mail for $4 to $10 a flight. Broadband, however, would let passengers shop online and tap into corporate networks. In-flight broadband is available today only through satellite-based systems on international flights because the service is pricey and requires heavy equipment that would be cumbersome for narrow-body domestic airlines. The new services would cost as little as $5 to $10 a flight,” Davidson reports.
“The FCC has long feared that letting passengers use their own cell phones would cause interference with hundreds of antenna towers on the ground, clogging networks. But new technology allows signals to be sent to a small airplane antenna, which would beam the signals to designated on-ground towers on special channels,” Davidson reports. “Even if the FCC eases its rules, the Federal Aviation Administration would also have to lift its ban on airplane cell phone use. The FAA worries about interference with navigation equipment. Also, airlines that install antenna systems would have to find a way to share revenue with cell phone carriers that typically offer flat-rate plans. There are also social concerns. ‘Many passengers don’t relish the idea of sitting next to someone yelling into their cell phones for an entire six-hour flight,’ FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein says.”
Full article here.