On MSNBC.com, Adam Hunter sounds the alarm again that cellphone use may soon be permitted in flight within the United States. It’s still up to two separate federal agencies — the FAA and the FCC — to come to agreement before cellphone users can burn through their minutes.
Phones have been on board for years, most commonly the Verizon Airfones that are installed in the backs of seats. The cost of making a call has been a deterrent, even when subscribers to a company cellphone plan get a discount.
I certainly sympathize with Hunter’s fear that we’ll soon be hearing more annoying chatter in the cabin. The poll associated with his article, while unscientific, shows that most people agree that cellphones are unwelcome inside aluminum tubes that hurtle through the air at over 500 mph.
But even if normal land-based cellphones are not approved (which I bet WILL happen), wi-fi in flight IS increasingly a reality. Several international carriers have installed Connexion by Boeing on their planes, which allows passengers to purchase high-speed wireless internet access for the duration of their flight. The planes are equipped with a wireless hub and a satellite connection.
Already today, a passenger flying, say, Asiana Airlines from Seoul to Seattle could buy a day pass for “Asiana Airnet,” then plug in a headset, fire up Skype or Net2Phone or any other VoIP service, and start making calls. Perfectly legally.
The next logical step is wi-fi enabled phones on board. In fact, they’re already being tested.
Granted, these are both currently more cumbersome than just dialing your existing cellphone, but the technology is here. Cellphones may be prohibited, but VoIP in the sky is coming.