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Traveler's Aid: Cellphones, Planes, and the Looming Specter of Ultra-Wideband Technology (9/27/02)

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Now, you can’t use your cellphone on planes.
In the future, you may not be able to use your laptop.

One of the most common and perplexing questions we get from listeners is this one: “How come I can’t use my cellphone on planes?” It’s a good question. Of course, the flight crew usually says something about how cellphones mess with the plane’s navigation system. But in 1996, the FAA examined thousands of flight records. They didn’t find a single instance -- not one -- of a cellphone affecting navigation equipment. So, what gives?

Meanwhile, there’s another problem lurking on the horizon -- one that could be even more dicey than cellphones. It’s called ultra-wideband technology (UWB), and it’s beginning to show up in all kinds of wireless gadgets. The proliferation of UWB may force airlines to ban laptops and PDAs completely.

Will it happen? And if so, when? Business travel writer Chris Barnett has been following this story, and he gives us the scoop on the future of UWB and in-flight computing.

Oh yeah: Chris also gives us a good answer on the cellphone thing, too.

Savvy Resources:

For more information on using electronic gadgets on planes, check out the FAA Advisory Circular “Use of Portable Electronic Devices Aboard Aircraft.” Yes, it’s written in charmless regulatory prose, but Section 7(c) on automated external defibrillators is genius!

If you'd like us to address your travel questions or concerns, send us an email. Or call us at 888-SAV-TRAV.

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