Feeds

China decrees in-flight cellphone calls are safe

你好,我是在飞机上*

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

Following two years of study, China has decided that in-flight calls are safe, but anyone hoping to make a call, or access the internet, on a Chinese flight will still be disappointed.

The Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT, not to be confused with MIT) has spent two years studying the affects of in-flight wireless and, perhaps noting that Western flights aren't dropping from the sky, has decreed that making calls from airplanes is safe, as Sina Tech reports. However, the first Chinese airline to provide in-flight wireless has adopted a business model even more restrictive than what's on the ground.

No Chinese airline currently permits in-flight use of a mobile phone, even to access the existing Wi-Fi service which was launched by Air China on early notification of MIIT's announcement. That service is restricted to laptops and tablets, and only provides access to the on-board entertainment cache. The airline feels its passengers don't really want internet access at all, as it told Sina Tech (translation by the poly-lingual chaps at Penn Olson):

"We did an investigation, and as far as most travellers are concerned, connecting to the internet on a flight definitely isn’t travellers’ first choice; what’s more important to them is passing the time on their flight via exciting activities."

Air China passengers can talk to each other over the Wi-Fi intranet, so you can address messages about the screaming baby to the neighbouring seat number. Dealing with the inevitable backlash from the parents would certainly falls into the category of "exciting activities", but one can't help feeling that internet access could be equally entertaining.

Air China even has the chutzpah to point out that its Wi-Fi service is free, while others charge, without mentioning that those others do tend to connect users to the actual internet for their money.

Linking an airplane to the rest of the world is problematic. The easy way to do it is via a satellite, but that limits the bandwidth and makes what is available expensive. Direct air-to-ground links are better, but mean building some sort of wide-area cellular network allowing aircraft to hand off as they cross the skies. Several companies have attempted to build such a network covering the USA, but the simplicity of satellite always trumps their business models.

Chinese flyers will, eventually, get their flights interrupted by the person beside them calling to tell the world they're on a plane, but for the moment they can only share that information with those who are in exactly the same position. ®

* "Hello, I'm on the plane"

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Scotland's BIG question: Will independence cost me my broadband?
They can take our lives, but they'll never take our SPECTRUM
Trying to sell your house? It'd better have KILLER mobile coverage
More NB than transport links to next-gen buyers - study
iWallet: No BONKING PLEASE, we're Apple
BLE-ding iPhones, not NFC bonkers, will drive trend - marketeers
Auntie remains MYSTIFIED by that weekend BBC iPlayer and website outage
Still doing 'forensics' on the caching layer – Beeb digi wonk
Speak your brains on SIGNAL-FREE mobile comms firm here
Is goTenna tech a goer? Time to grill CEO, CTO
NBN Co adds apartments to FTTP rollout
Commercial trial locations to go live in September
Samsung Z Tizen OS mobe is post-phoned – this time for good?
Russian launch for Sammy's non-droid knocked back
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.