Feeds

To talk or not to talk - that is the question

What's the future of in-flight mobile comms?

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The Power of One Infographic

Two news stories in the last few weeks highlight a mobile communications dilemma. There's a time to talk and a time to refrain from talking. One person's mobile flexibility is another's annoying conversation.

First, increasing the opportunity, and the use of mobile devices while flying.

The positive push is coming from two directions, aircraft manufacturers, and carriers. Although the aircraft aviation authorities currently ban cellular phone use due to concerns about interference, manufacturers believe that improvements in technology will remove the risks, and that unconstrained mobile usage might be in place by 2006. The likely route is for on board micro cells to be built into planes, which then route call traffic to a ground station for onward connection.

German carrier Lufthansa already has some flights experiencing online connectivity, with eight aircraft on the routes between Munich and Los Angeles and Munich and Tokyo offering wireless LAN connectivity from 30,000 feet with its FlyNet service. In a trial of the service last year, Lufthansa found that across 155 flights, an average of 50 to 80 passengers were online simultaneously.

In the US, manufacturer Boeing has plans to incorporate IT office connectivity into its strategy for in flight entertainment with six hours connectivity estimated to be charged at around $30. So I guess the real question is, who will be doing the billing, and who will pay? The airline carrier versus manufacturer relationship is starting to look like the one between mobile operator and handset manufacturer, with the only certain source of payment being the user.

If you're a business user, connectivity is important while flying. For some it's important to have it, for others it has been nice not to. Whilst mobile data access for 80 aboard a transatlantic flight might not inconvenience the other passengers, mobile voice access for 80 certainly would. As has been found on railway carriages, excluding mobile communication is often welcome. Both to those seeking to escape the noise of others, and those seeking to escape being called. Some consumers will no doubt welcome another form of entertainment to relieve the tedium of travel, but will there be enough for carriers to recoup their investment, and will an increase in cabin noise levels have other effects?

As for improvements in interference technology, how about mobile communications resistant wallpaper? This is from a development from UK technology research company, QinetiQ, formerly part of the Ministry of Defence. The idea is based on that used in stealth technology, and would allow certain frequencies to be blocked and others to pass through.

The breakthrough is in the production process, as previously it was too expensive to manufacture such materials. This chemical process forms a special pattern that affects and blocks certain frequencies, but not others. The resultant material could be used in all sorts of applications, from protecting sensitive equipment, to providing quiet zones for hospitals, cinemas and perhaps even travellers. Since the material can be frequency specific, mobile phone signals could be excluded, but emergency services radios permitted. The technology does at least allow some barriers to be placed on otherwise unconstrained mobile signals, and will also undoubtedly find uses in enhancing barrier security for businesses.

This all highlights some issues for mobile etiquette. As coverage grows to include places we previously thought were isolated, remote or hidden, and the user community grows to encompass everyone, the problems will only grow. Technology may provide some help, but it will not provide the answers to what is inevitably a social, and somewhat commercially driven, issue.

© IT-Analysis.com

Related stories

Intel backs in-flight Wi-Fi initiative
US group lobbies for the airborne mobile
Time to challenge airline paranoia on wireless

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
Major problems beset UK ISP filth filters: But it's OK, nobody uses them
It's almost as though pr0n was actually rather popular
Apple orders huge MOUNTAIN of 80 MILLION 'Air' iPhone 6s
Bigger, harder trouser bulges foretold for fanbois
Google Nest, ARM, Samsung pull out Thread to strangle ZigBee
But there's a flaw in Google's IP-based IoT system
Microsoft unsheathes cheap Android-killer: Behold, the Lumia 530
Say it with us: I'm King of the Landfill-ill-ill-ill
US freemium mobile network eyes up Europe
FreedomPop touts 'free' calls, texts and data
'Two-speed internet' storm turns FCC.gov into zero-speed website
Deadline for comments on net neutrality shake-up extended to Friday
Oh girl, you jus' didn't: Level 3 slaps Verizon in Netflix throttle blowup
Just hook us up to more 10Gbps ports, backbone biz yells in tit-for-tat spat
prev story

Whitepapers

Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.