The FAA still has rules in place to turn off mobile devices during takeoff and landings but there is little if any evidence to suggest there is any danger using these devices during the time it is prohibited. Carries such as Emirates from Dubai have been allowing their customers to use mobile devices for several years without any safety issues.
The announcement that Boeing (News - Alert) will be adding in-flight Wi-Fi and mobile connectivity comes after the FAA was receiving large number of complaints regarding their policy. This prompted a review of the system that is in place, but personal phones will still be prohibited from making calls.
Currently, Boeing has the kit which allows on-board Wi-Fi and cellular access on the 737. The new kits will be installed on the 747, 748 and 777 by the end of 2013 and the new 787 will have the capability of being retrofitted by the end of 2012. The connectivity systems are developed by Panasonic and the Thales (News - Alert) Group. Besides cellular and Wi-Fi service, it will be able to provide live television broadcasts, Internets access and in-flight entertainment programming.
The goal is to have the option of being able to offer wireless media streaming by 2014 on all of their planes. With a forecast of$1.85 billion for in-flight Wi-Fi services by 2018, everyone from the FAA to the airline carriers and manufacturers are eager to make this technology available as soon as possible.
Not all the carriers provide Wi-Fi and if you need this service while you are flying make sure the plane is fitted with the technology. It is also important to find out the pricing structure of the Wi-Fi or cellular service the airline provides. Whether you are using your smartphone, tablet or laptop, each airline has rules regarding how to use your device. Just in case you need additional hardware such as a GPRS card for British Airways for your laptop.
Major carriers in the U.S. such as United, Delta, Continental, US Airways and Virgin America have the same rate of 1.5 hours for US$4.95 (laptop/mobile), 1.5-3 hours for US$9.95 (laptop) or US$7.95 (mobile), 3+ hours for US$12.95 (laptop) or US$7.95 (mobile). International carriers are considerably higher with applicable roaming rates.
If you use your device while you are flying try to optimize your device and the service the carrier provides so you can save money and be more efficient. Most carriers that provide Wi-Fi service have monthly plans with some level of discount. Additionally, when you use your device on the plane most of the content will be compressed by the company assigned to provide the service to limit overloading their bandwidth. This means the speed will be slow when you load the pages initially but it will pick up. You can decrease any lag by using a browser optimized for compression and changing your browsing agent to mobile mode. This will load smaller versions of the pages on your device.
Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO West 2012, taking place Oct. 2-5, in Austin, TX. Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXPO (News - Alert). Follow us on Twitter.
Edited by Brooke Neuman