March 23, 2006
 

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Posted: 02.08.05
From the Desk of Teresa von Fuchs: Flight of Fancy
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The lament, "Remember when people could smoke on planes?" sounds like heaven to some, and an unbelievable hell to others. We're heading toward another mixed memory when some will groan and some will sigh, "Remember when cell phones weren't allowed on planes?"  

By Teresa von Fuchs




The FCC voted in late December to auction off spectrum that would allow for data connections on airplanes. The word on the street is expect wireless Internet-enabled skies by 2006. The FCC also moved toward allowing voice calls, calling for public opinion to weigh in on the matter. Technical concerns with the scenario have pretty much been eliminated; this past July, Qualcomm took a proof-of-concept flight airborne and safely chatted away on common CDMA phones at 30,000 feet. Though there is still some debate about mass use causing radio interference, I think we should we addressing other interference issues, issues with both our productivity and privacy. So far a few pennies have been flying around about the possible cacophony that could ensue from a plane full of talkers. And I'm here to cash in my two cents as well.

I am not going to lie, I have problems with public talkers. I bless the NYC subway for being underground so that I don't have to spend my hour commute listening to someone next to me whine about their love life, brag about their work or "just called to say hi." I value my quiet time, and in a city that never stops propelling you forward, it's nice to have an unreachable moment where I can stop and actually plan my next move.

"That's fine and dandy for you," one could say, "but my productivity has nothing to do with your meditations." Ah, but it does. It's not the ubiquitousness of cell phones and connectivity that bothers me, it's the learned restraint that seems to be missing from the populace. Quiet reflection is an important part of any person's job (and life, for that matter), and evidence seems to prove that people are less and less comfortable spending what could be a quiet, thoughtful moment, quietly. I've yet to be in a line where someone isn't talking on the phone; the moment my subway train goes above ground, what feels like an army of riders starts dialing.

And I'm not alone in my fears of how much longer my cross country flight will seem, sitting next to someone that between work calls also has to check on the kids, tell a spouse how much they miss them and call a friend to catch up. A recent USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll found that seven out of 10 frequent or occasional fliers want to keep the ban on phones in flight. And I bet the feeling is not against the nature of connect- or productivity, but against the populace that seems to make no move toward learning when it's time to put the phone down.
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