FAA Throws Up Roadblock to Would-be Aero Cellphone Services

 - October 23, 2006, 9:58 AM

AeroMobile, a joint venture of Arinc and Telenor now planning the introduction of cellphone services for the cabin, last month announced that it is taking a “global role” in convincing communications regulatory agencies in the U.S. and Europe to allow the use of personal mobile phones after takeoff. Yet while the Federal Communications Commission and European Communications Committee appear amenable to the idea of lifting the in-flight mobile phone ban, the FAA seems to have other ideas.

Citing the potential for cellphone interference with avionics, the FAA has told service providers and airlines that they will need to prove the concept is safe before the agency considers certifying associated hardware.

AeroMobile’s concept involves a small cell antenna aboard the airplane that picks up phone signals and retransmits them through the airplane’s satcom system. Known as a picocell, the onboard antenna instructs a cellphone to revert to its lowest power setting, thereby eliminating the potential for interference with navigation and flight control systems, AeroMobile said. Now it just needs to prove it.