UPDATED: Most air travelers opposed to in-flight calls, poll finds

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UPDATED 3:14 p.m. – As federal regulators consider removing a decades-old prohibition on making phone calls on planes, a majority of Americans who fly oppose such a change, a new Associated Press-GfK poll finds.

The Federal Communications Commission will officially start the debate Thursday, holding the first of several meetings to review the agency’s 22-year-old ban.

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You might soon be allowed to make cell phone calls while flying, but prepare to be extra for it.

Keeping customers connected to mobile networks in-flight would be a major opportunity for U.S. carriers, potentially worth $2.4 billion plus a year, according to Akshay Sharma, a wireless network analyst at Gartner.

Now that the federal government is considering an end to its in-flight phone call ban, these companies might finally have a chance to dip into untapped potential revenue.

But it will cost cell phone companies millions of dollars to install the proper equipment on planes, so analysts expect carriers to recoup those costs with a per-flight fee similar to how in-flight Wi-Fi is used today.

Wireless carriers could also charge hefty per-minute voice fees and roaming charges could apply if your cell phone company’s network isn’t supported on your flight.

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Original story:

WASHINGTON – Making a cell phone call while aloft could become a reality under a proposal by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.

Cell phone calls, texting and other mobile services would be allowed when the aircraft are flying above 10,000 feet, but not during takeoff and landing, according to an official briefed on the proposal.

Airlines would have to equip planes with special antennas approved by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration before passengers could start talking.

The commission says this proposal aims to give airline passengers the same communication access in the air that they have on trains and buses or in coffee shops.

“Modern technologies can deliver mobile services in the air safely and reliably, and the time is right to review our outdated and restrictive rules,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement. “I look forward to working closely with my colleagues, the FAA and the airline industry on this review of new mobile opportunities for consumers.”

For years, the FCC has banned talking on mobile phones aboard aircraft in flight due to concerns that high-flying phones could disrupt cellular towers on the ground.

A proposal to lift the cell phone ban was considered in 2004 but abandoned three years later. At the time, the FCC said that the “technical information provided … was insufficient to determine whether in-flight use of wireless devices on aircraft could cause harmful interference to wireless networks on the ground.”

A number of other nations around the world already allow cell phone use inflight on similarly equipped aircraft.

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