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Cellphones on planes may be heading for the US, but will anyone use them?

Stephen Lawson | Dec. 13, 2013
Foreign airlines might easily extend service on flights into the country if the FCC allows it.

Customers of at least one U.S. mobile operator can already use their phones in the air when traveling overseas where the service is allowed. AeroMobile has an international roaming agreement with AT&T. The carrier's discount packages for roaming in some foreign countries don't cover AeroMobile service, so voice calls cost $2.50 per minute, data costs $0.0195 per KB, and sending a text message costs $0.50.

Even within the U.S., it's likely that cell use on airliners would be treated as international roaming. That could make U.S. mobile operators wary about supporting cellular service on domestic flights, said analyst Roger Entner of Recon Analytics. Consumers in Europe and Asia are more savvy about international roaming than most passengers on domestic U.S. flights, he said, so phone companies would have to be prepared to either warn subscribers carefully or field a lot of complaints.

"It's very difficult to explain to the average American that the moment they step on a plane, they're in a different country," Entner said. "I don't think the carrier will want to have any part of that. It sounds like a customer service nightmare."



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