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Report: Cingular opposes calls on planes
USA Today says No. 1 wireless phone provider asks FAA to keep ban on in-flight cell phone calls.
June 16, 2005: 9:23 AM EDT
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NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Cingular Wireless wants to maintain a ban on cell phone calls aboard airplanes, according to a published report.

USA Today reports Thursday the company has taken that position in a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA and the Federal Communications Commission are looking at lifting the ban on in-flight calls and then using new technology.

"We believe there is a time and a place for wireless phone conversations, and seldom does that include the confines of an airplane flight," Cingular said in its June 8 letter to the FAA, according to the paper.

Cingular's letter went on to say that even if such calls are permitted, it will urge its customers to refrain.

"Cingular will encourage passengers to 'tap, not talk' — that is, to use discreet services such as text messaging and e-mail as opposed to voice communications in flight," the carrier wrote.

Cingular, a joint venture between SBC Communications (Research) and BellSouth (Research), became the nation's No. 1 wireless provider when it acquired AT&T Wireless in 2004. It now has more than 50 million customers.

Cingular spokeswoman Rochelle Cohen told the paper that people talking loudly or incessantly on cell phones in trains, restaurants or other closed venues is a constant source of grousing by its customers.

An FAA spokesman told the paper that when it comes to calls on planes, the agency is looking at issues involving aircraft safety, not the social interaction of passengers.

The letter to the FAA seems at odds with a joint comment from Cingular and No. 2 wireless provider Verizon Wireless to the FCC, according to the paper. That statement said the two leading cell phone companies might support lifting the ban if safeguards existed to protect consumers on the ground from interference.

Verizon Wireless spokesman told the paper the company doesn't believe there is a big market for cell phones on planes because it is hard to have a private conversation in those confines.

Hoping to attract more business travelers, airlines are eager to offer the ability to make cell phone calls and wireless Internet connections while in flight. But United Airlines, which has announced plans to be the first U.S. carrier to offer wireless Internet connections on its flights by next year, said "our research shows that connecting to the Internet is customers' most preferred form of communication to the ground."

For a look at FCC's plans for cell phone and Internet connections for airline passengers, click here.

For other stories on personal technology devices, click here.  Top of page

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