Posted March 16, 2006 –You've probably seen people flip open their cell phones and make a call at 20,000 feet -- just moments after a flight attendant tells passengers to turn off all electronic devices.
But flyers may no longer have to sneak to speak if the Federal Communications Commission says it's OK.
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In May, the FCC will auction off rights to allow telecommunications companies to operate wireless Internet and cell phone services for air travel, The Wall Street Journal reported.
And a laundry list of mobile companies are lining up for their chance to bid, including Verizon, AirCell, AeroMobile and Telenor ASA.
The Federal Aviation Administration recently gave the green light to a Verizon system that lets laptops connect to the Internet from airplanes. Now if Verizon wins the May 10 auction, company officials say they hope to have the system up and running by 2007, the paper reported.
But a new study says safety is the big issue here.
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say using cell phones on planes can interfere with systems used to navigate the plane, warning that if this happens, the plane could lose signals from the Global Positioning Satellite system or even veer off course.
In the study, researchers used a device that measures radio-frequency emissions from personal electronic devices, like laptops, Blackberries and cell phones. And guess what? It was cell phones that interfered with GPS systems.
Currently, federal rules prohibit the use of personal electronic devices onboard airplanes unless airlines can prove they are safe to operate.
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