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Ending Ban on In-Flight Calls to Be Considered by FCC

Aviation regulators on Nov. 1 loosened restrictions on passenger use of Wi-Fi connected electronic devices such as Amazon.com Inc.’s Kindles and Apple Inc.’s iPads. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg
Aviation regulators on Nov. 1 loosened restrictions on passenger use of Wi-Fi connected electronic devices such as Amazon.com Inc.’s Kindles and Apple Inc.’s iPads. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

Nov. 21 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Federal Communications Commission will consider allowing airline passengers to make voice calls using their mobile phones at altitudes above 10,000 feet.

The communications agency at a meeting Dec. 12 will vote on writing rules, according to the agenda released in an e-mail today. The change would need another vote by the agency to take effect, and airlines could choose whether to allow calling.

The proposal would “expand consumer access and choice for in-flight mobile broadband,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in an e-mailed statement. “Modern technologies can deliver mobile services in the air safely and reliably, and the time is right to review our outdated and restrictive rules.”

Shares of airborne connectivity companies Gogo Inc. and Boingo Wireless Inc. climbed as much as 9.5 percent in trading today. Gogo shares were $29.51, a 6.8 percent increase, at 4 p.m. New York time. Boingo shares were $6.75, an 8.5 percent increase, at 4 p.m. New York time.

The FCC’s proposal wouldn’t permit phone calls as airlines land and take off.

Aviation regulators on Nov. 1 loosened restrictions on passenger use of Wi-Fi connected electronic devices such as Amazon.com Inc.’s Kindles and Apple Inc.’s iPads.

“We are prepared to work with the FCC as they consider expanding in-flight mobile broadband,” Laura Brown, a Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

The FCC’s ban on using cellular devices was put in place because of potential interference to wireless networks on the ground. The agency in a notice today said it wants to give airlines freedom to let passengers connect “via onboard airborne access systems.”

The new gear would need approval from aviation authorities, Justin Cole, an FCC spokesman, said in an interview.

To contact the reporter on this story: Todd Shields in Washington at tshields3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bernard Kohn at bkohn2@bloomberg.net

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