Monday, February 20, 2006

Dean Bubley: Please leave your mobile switched off until you are inside the terminal.....

Dean Bubley writes at Disruptive Wireless about the inconsistency over the treatment of cellphone users on planes and airports, and when and how you are permitted to use mobiles while on the ground. He notes "some airlines seem happy for you to use mobiles until they shut the cabin doors before take-off. Others won't allow you to use them on the plane at any point." Here are some of his thoughts:

  • regulation is too ill-defined, so airlines have developed their own rules which they apply consistently across all their flights - but inconsistently with other airlines
  • - some airlines (especially low-cost airlines like EasyJet) want you off the plane ASAP, so they can turn around & head off again 30 minutes later. Fiddling around with phones while you're still in the aisle slows people down by a few seconds, so telling them they can't helps speed up the process or disembarking
The cynic in Bubley wonders if there are other reasons such as:
many airports and cellular networks carefully locate cells, antennas and other coverage solutions to grab as many lucrative "inbound roamers" as they can. Sometimes carriers may even pay a premium to the airport owner to be the first "visible" network when travellers get off the plane. But if they just hook into the local macro network in the Bay Area or Hounslow, all that RF planning cleverness and investment is wasted.

So, who knows.... maybe airlines actually get paid by operators to tell their passengers to wait before switching on their phones? A business traveller might be worth $50 to whichever operator gets his or her roaming business, so capturing a few more inbound roamers might make it worthwhile for Vodafone or O2 to have a chat with the operations folk at EasyJet or BA, as the legal situation seems to be so vague....