April 05, 2008

Mobile Phones on a Plane

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/7330850.stm

Apparently, early last week, Ofcom okayed the use of mobile phones on airliners at any height above 3km. This has confused me and leads me to the following points:

  • What happened to the belief that electronic devices emit harmful pilot killer rays? I always doubted there would be any issues (given the high amount of shielding on the cables), but Health & Safety are usually much harder to convince...
  • If mobile phones are capable of transmitting signals between 1.8 miles (3km) and 6.6 miles (cruising altitude of 747, apparently) why do I always have so few bars for the signal strength?
  • Isn't the real reason for the ban on mobile phones supposed to be that it encourages people to use the airline's ridiculously expensive built-in phones? Surely, therefore, mobiles are still going to be prohibited...
  • Also, why only above 3000m? Why is it dangerous (presumably) below 3km, but perfectly safe above?

- 2 comments by 2 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Steve Rumsby

    If mobile phones are capable of transmitting signals between 1.8 miles (3km) and 6.6 miles

    In this context, they won’t be. There’ll be a micro-cell on the plane that the phones will talk to, so they’ll actually be transmitting at very low power. Which is why the harmful pilot killer rays aren’t a problem. They aren’t strong enough to get through the bulkhead to the pilots – they are just harmful passenger killer rays instead:-)

    The call is relayed from the plane to the ground by other means. Presumably the same means by which the built-in phones work. Which brings us to:

    Isn’t the real reason for the ban on mobile phones supposed to be that it encourages people to use the airline’s ridiculously expensive built-in phones?

    Because you are talking to the micro-cell on the plane, you’ll be roaming, and be charged whatever the airlines decide. I somehow suspect it won’t be much cheaper than the built-in phones.

    Also, why only above 3000m?

    Because if there is a problem, that gives the pilots enough time to get something sorted (“everybody turn off their phones now“) and still not crash into the ground.

    At least, the above is my current understanding of how this will work. I may be wrong…

    07 Apr 2008, 10:42

  2. There’ll be a micro-cell on the plane that the phones will talk to

    That makes much more sense.

    you’ll be roaming

    Ah, of course.

    That gives the pilots enough time to get something sorted

    That’s what I thought, too.

    07 Apr 2008, 13:40


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