The U.S. Federal Communications Commission is all set to consider allowing the use of cellular services during airline flights, with an open meeting scheduled for December 12 to discuss the proposal. "Modern technologies can deliver mobile services in the air safely and reliably, and the time is right to review our outdated and restrictive rules", FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement on Thursday.
At present, in-flight cellular services are banned. But if the FCC has its way, airline passengers will be able to make airborne voice calls and send text messages over cellular networks. Cellular services would still be restricted below 10,000 feet altitude and while landing and takeoff, reports Wall Street Journal. Also, it would be up to the individual airlines to decide whether or not to allow in-flight cellular calls.
The news comes just a few weeks after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) relaxed some of its rules allowing passengers to read articles, watch movies, listen to music and play games from gate-to-gate, provided that the devices are in airplane mode (i.e. without a live cellular connection).
Mobile phones and other devices inside a plane can access cellular services through a small cellular base station installed onboard known as a Picocell, which extends coverage to areas with low signal.
Meanwhile, the Association of Flight Attendants has opposed the move.