Speaking Engagements & Private Workshops - Get Dean Bubley to present or chair your event

Need an experienced, provocative & influential telecoms keynote speaker, moderator/chair or workshop facilitator?
To discuss Dean Bubley's appearance at a specific event, contact information AT disruptive-analysis DOT com

Friday, February 17, 2006

Please leave your mobile switched off until you are inside the terminal.....

There's a huge amount of inconsistency about the treatment of cellphone users on planes and airports. I'm not talking about the possibility of on-board picocells but when and how you are permitted to use mobiles while on the ground.

Some airlines seem happy for you to use mobiles until they shut the cabin doors before take-off. Others won't allow you to use them on the plane at any point.

It isn't related to national or airport-specific regulation, either. I've flown into SFO a couple of times in the last 6 months. On one flight (Virgin), the crew announced "don't use your phones until you are well inside the terminal". On the other (United), the crew announced it was OK to switch on while the plane was still slowing down, halfway along the runway.

A couple of thoughts

- regulation is too ill-defined, so airlines have developed their own rules which they apply consistently across all their flights - but inconsistently with other airlines
- some airlines (especially low-cost airlines like EasyJet) want you off the plane ASAP, so they can turn around & head off again 30 minutes later. Fiddling around with phones while you're still in the aisle slows people down by a few seconds, so telling them they can't helps speed up the process or disembarking

Or, more cynically..... many airports and cellular networks carefully locate cells, antennas and other coverage solutions to grab as many lucrative "inbound roamers" as they can. Sometimes carriers may even pay a premium to the airport owner to be the first "visible" network when travellers get off the plane. But if they just hook into the local macro network in the Bay Area or Hounslow, all that RF planning cleverness and investment is wasted.

So, who knows.... maybe airlines actually get paid by operators to tell their passengers to wait before switching on their phones? A business traveller might be worth $50 to whichever operator gets his or her roaming business, so capturing a few more inbound roamers might make it worthwhile for Vodafone or O2 to have a chat with the operations folk at EasyJet or BA, as the legal situation seems to be so vague....


Vinnie Mirchandani said...

want to hear about sweet revenge

I was stuck on a plane which had to go to a remote part of the airport as we waited for bad weather to clear. it sounded like it would be an hour's delay. I turned my laptop and cell phone on, and the attendant came storming and said we had left the gate and I could not use either. She then sarcastically asked if she wanted me to call the captain and see if he could take me back to the gate. I shook my head yes, thinking she was joking. She actually called the captain. Next thing I know the captain came on the voice over and said "since we will be here for another hour, feel free to use your eelctronics".

The attendant was hopping mad. She did not want to look me in the eye. The guys around me almost applauded when the captain made the announcement.

I agree the rules are arbitrary. A captain seated next to me on a flight told me the safety risk from cell phones is awfully low. it is less an FAA or NTSB issue, more of an FCC issue

Anonymous said...

Both Airbus & Boeing reps have acknowledged to me that it's not an interferance issue - the critical systems are hardened to withstand the voltages and frequency range of a lightening strike, so a few phones - or a lot of phones - simply don't pose any threat.

The idea of hundreds of subscribers trying to register/make calls while moving at 500kph, 1,000m above central London (or anywhere) IS a major concern. It is entirely feasible to make a call at 30,000 feet - after all, mobile cells can be many times that size. The issue is interferance and what it does to other users by using BTS power to communicate with you instead of someone much closer to the cell's design radius.