10,000 In-Flight Cell Calls In Europe: No Crashes, No Terrorist Attacks

from the amazing dept

A company that provides in-flight mobile phone service to some European airlines says it has logged 10,000 calls since its launch in December 2007. Those calls have passed without incident — they don’t seem to have interfered with ground networks, they haven’t led to any terrorist attacks, they haven’t messed with planes’ electronics and caused any crashes. That pretty much covers the technical or safety reasons given for bans on in-flight calls in countries like the US, really leaving only the annoyance factor as justification for a ban. Surely, though, if safety isn’t the issue, the choice should be left up to individual airlines: if calls really are so annoying that they become a problem, airlines can ban them on their own. If an individual flyer feels so bothered by the calls, they can choose to fly only on those airlines that don’t allow them.

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Comments on “10,000 In-Flight Cell Calls In Europe: No Crashes, No Terrorist Attacks”

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Paul Brinker (profile) says:

2 things the study dident think about was scale, and Cellphone tower network backbone.

Cell towers were built with the idea of a user going max ~60 MPH and being on the ground where 3-5 towers would see a given user. When in flight cell phones connect to all towers with in line of sight (could be upwords of 20 towers) A single phone doing this is not a big deal, it causes a blip on the network that a user is connected to 20 towers and moving at 300 MPH (or more) and as such handshaking will be happening non stop as the phone keeps connecting to the best tower he can see.

nothing here has said that cell phone company network engneers have adjusted there backbone, or built handsets that minimize the two main effects that a large number of phones in the air would cause.

There is more to the ban of cell phones then simple (O noos it will crash a plane) 300 planes of phones not built for use in flight will degrade the network at least right now.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Except the government agency banning phones on airplanes is not the FAA, but the FCC. So your analogy is off. It would be more like the FDA banned taking of prescription drugs in stadiums, or the Interstate Commerce Commission prohibited installation of a certain equipment item on trucks above a certain size, even though the trucks might only be used for instate delivery, just because they might be used for interstate delivery.

RD says:

Silly rabbit!

Hahahaha silly rabbit! it was NEVER about safety or terrorism. Its about MONEY. Its ALWAYS about money. Once there is a good enough reason to charge insane fees, these “safety” issues will magically become a BENEFIT and there will be calls. At $3 a minute. Locked to the airline. Cant use YOUR phone. Count on it.

ryan says:

Re: Silly rabbit!

This doesn’t make any sense. There already are phones that are insanely expensive, exclusive, and usable (legally) on a flight. The airphone (or whatever the brand is where you are). As soon as they allow cell phone use, they will NOT be able to dictate what phone you use, what service you use, etc.

B says:


Yes… please… give me another reason to hate flying… that’d be great. After I’m harassed by TSA and my flight gets delayed by three hours (again), I can sit next to some asshole who’s complete lack of human decency allows him to yak on his cell from takeoff to touch down. That sounds swell.

Maybe next they can distribute cyanide capsules along with the “complimentary” peanuts and 1/3 of a can of Sprite.

Daniel B. (profile) says:

A few years ago I was invited at the last moment to travel with our company CEO on the company jet. The pilots told us we could use our cell phones any time we wanted and could get a signal, even during take off and landing. They also didn’t care about using laptops at any time. As others have said, it was never about safety.

That said, I too don’t want to listen people around me yelling over the noise of the plane for several hours. Letting the market decide is unlikely to give us passengers an option as the airlines will go for the path that generates the greatest revenue. They’ve already proven (at least most carriers have) that they don’t care about the passenger’s experience.

Pangolin (profile) says:


There are some archaic regulations here – changing them is the hard part.

One is that the pilot has the determination of “portable electronic equipment” that may be used on the aircraft.

The second is the pesky $25000 fine for using a cell phone in the air.

This is an FCC penalty. So there are multiple agencies involved.

The whole “interferes with navigation” thing is a red herring thrown at the populace to get them to obey. The $25000 fine ought to be enough. It HAS been levied before.

Dr Desmo says:

No Idea

Wow all these posts it its only the first one who has a clue. You go switching cells WHILE YOU ARE OVER LAND(and no these don’t run via the Airlines network)or close to it, at 600mph, and if you have enough people doing it, you can bring the network down… thats why the FCC has a $25k fine.

Oh an don’t try it because they will know which handsets are doing hand offs at 600mph, expensive call…..

Jake says:

Re: No Idea

“You go switching cells … at 600mph, and if you have enough people doing it, you can bring the network down…”

Has this ever actually happened, or are cellphone providers merely worried that it could happen? Not that I can blame them for being unwilling to test the theory, but some empirical data would be nice.

R. Miles says:

Sit, Ubu, sit.

they can choose to fly only on those airlines that don’t allow them.
Fly airliner A which charges nothing for a window seat, extra carry ons, etc. and allows phone service.


Fly ariliner B which charges you for everything and no phone service.

Neither have the same destination.

Yep. Customers sure do have many choices.

Carlo, you do understand the issues in the airline industry, right?

Do you really think lifting the cell phone ban is this important?

Given how cell phone users become the dumbest people on earth, let’s leave the ban where it’s at. If one can’t wait a few damn hours without gabbing into a device, then let them take the damn bus.

Chronno S. Trigger says:

Re: Sit, Ubu, sit.

Holy crap. You people are so damn animate about keeping this ban just because people who talk annoy you. How about the people who talk directly to you on the plane? How about the people that are two seats wide squeezing into the seat beside you? You don’t count them as annoying?

People in the US need reasons to enact laws. Causing a plane crash would be a good reason (if it were true), annoying your ass is not. If we start banning things just because they are annoying, than cell phones would be gone everywhere, cars would be gone, pets, computers, cites, people…

I demand a good reasons for my bans.

R. Miles says:

Re: Re: Sit, Ubu, sit.

You people are so damn animate about keeping this ban just because people who talk annoy you.
I’m sorry, I should have elaborated a bit more on this annoyance. Let me explain:
Walking – for some reason, this simple act of putting one foot in front of the other can’t be done by people on cell phones. This is when you are trying to make your flight, which leaves in 5 minutes. Walk around them? Sure, just make sure you apologize to the little girl you knocked down in trying to get around this idiot.

Reading – another simple skill lost by cell phone users, especially while standing under the big sign giving them all the information they need.

Decision making – while talking on the phone, a person can’t seem to focus on what to order while standing at the register. This is accompanied by a “please hold” hand gesture to the employee, while the others behind this idiot must wait until such decision making is completed, usually after the phone call has ended.

The ability to juggle – a lost art, apparently, when the cell phone is more important than the 20+ lb luggage they’re trying to move with one hand, and look dumbfounded at you when they lose their grip while the luggage sits on your foot or in your lap.

Failure to notice anyone else around them – this is very significant, because that same 20+ lb luggage seems to get one in the shin. Every damn time.

And Chronno, this is before these idiots even get on the plane. How annoyed would you be having to stand in an aisle when someone’s phone call is more important than it is to place baggage in the overhead compartment?

All this in addition to the already stressing factors involved in traveling to begin with.

I’m so glad you’re tolerant, but some of us get tired of being held up by inconsiderate people because their conversation about a friend’s vagina is more important.

So, with that, I’ll restructure my “ban” to say: ban them while boarding and disembarking the aircraft.


Chronno S. Trigger says:

Re: Re: Re: Sit, Ubu, sit.

So now you want to ban something that is perfectly legal and legalese something that is presently illegal?

Once again, you cannot ban something just because it’s annoying. I find the children down the street yelling at 9:00pm really annoying. They yell so loud that I have problems hearing the TV, and I live 2 blocks away. Am I going to push for a ban on children? Yelling? Hell no. It’s annoying as fuck but they have every right to do it. There is no noise ordinance in this city.

If this was a safety issue I’d be all over this like white on rice, but I’m not going to ban something just because 1 out of 100 people can’t do it while walking. And if we do we need to ban you for not looking where you’re going and knocking over that little girl that you should have seen. I find that much more annoying then someone talking.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Hardly definitive, but...

There appears to be some risk, depending on your point of view…

Umm, not really. People who claim so usually base their argument on a claim that it hasn’t been absolutely proven that a risk doesn’t exist, but it is very difficult to prove that something doesn’t exist. For example, it has not been proven that unicorns do not exist, so some would claim that “There appear to be unicorns, depending on your point of view”.

Villi says:

Cellphones adjust their output power

Cellphones adjust the output power they use to communicate with the base station based on their distance and other cell phones operating nearby. Since the base station is in the plane itself all cellphones would operate at a very low power level, whereas when on ground and using terrestrial base station the power output is much higher and could interfere with other radio communication.

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