It used to be a fairly simple rule: your mobile phones must be turned off while flying. But, these days, mobile phones are more than just mobile phones. If I can use a Palm device on an airplane, shouldn't I be able to use my Treo phone with the phone part turned off? The problem, though is that this is causing all sorts of trouble for airline staff who have no easy way to know whether the mobile phone part has been turned off. Some device makers are even including a "flight mode" option that turns off the wireless connection and clearly states FLIGHT MODE on the display for any concerned flight attendant. However, to deal with all of this, companies are starting to push new technology that would make it possible to let people use mobile phones while in-flight. While there are a number of different reasons often cited for not allowing mobile phone use - the biggest issue is that the signal hits many different towers at once, causing problems for the network. One solution appears to basically put a mobile cellular tower within the plane, so that calls route through that base station, and can be more carefully routed to the ground. Of course, this leads to the inevitable question about just how annoying it will be when everyone on the plane is talking during the flight, but that's a different problem for a different post. In the meantime, though, combined with the new Connexion system from Boeing providing wireless internet access in the air, and people may never need to set foot on the ground again.
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