Qualcomm Incorporated and American Airlines ran a proof-of-concept and demonstrated in-cabin voice communications using commercially available CDMA mobile phones on a commercial American Airlines aircraft. Through the use of an in-cabin third-generation (3G) "picocell" network, passengers on the test flight were able to place and receive calls as if they were on the ground.
The proof-of-concept demonstration flight originated out of the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. During the approximate two-hour flight, passengers were able to place and receive phone calls and text messages on their mobile phones. Passengers included members of the media and government representatives.
A small in-cabin CDMA cellular base station on the plane, that uses standard cellular communications, was connected to the worldwide terrestrial phone network by an air-to-ground Globalstar satellite link.
According to the companies, the information gathered during this proof-of-concept demonstration flight will be used to further research into the quality, convenience and safety of communications with personal CDMA mobile phones carried by passengers on a commercial aircraft.
A few weeks ago I asked the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) about the safety of actively using Bluetooth devices (like the Stowaway Bluetooth Keyboard) while in-flight, and I got a reply that reads along the line that "it is up to the aircraft operator to determine which portable electronic devices (PED) can be used safely during flight, and during which phases of flight they may be used. All such devices MUST be stowed during takeoff and landing.". I was also pointed to a FAA regulation, where it allows the use of devices that airline companies deem safe, but still prohibits the use of cellular (mobile) phones:
"The FCC currently prohibits the use and operation of cellular telephones while airborne. Its primary concern is that a cellular telephone, while used airborne, would have a much greater transmitting range than a land mobile unit. This could result in serious interference to transmissions at other cell locations since the system uses the same frequency several times within a market. Since a cellular mobile telephone unit is capable of operating on all assignable cellular frequencies, serious interference may also occur to cellular systems in adjacent markets. The FAA supports this airborne restriction for reasons of potential interference to critical aircraft systems. Currently, the FAA does not prohibit use of cellular telephones in aircraft while on the ground if the operator has determined that they will not interfere with the navigation or communication system of the aircraft on which they are to be used. An example might be their use at the gate or during an extended wait on the ground, while awaiting a gate, when specifically authorized by the captain. A cellular telephone will not be authorized for use while the aircraft is being taxied for departure after leaving the gate"