Two unrelated questions about mobiles/cell phones

  1. Why do North Americans call them “cell phones” and Engllish/Australians call them “mobile phones”? Relatively new technology having two different names?

  2. Why is mobile phone use banned on aircraft? I had once heard that it emits signals that throw out air traffic controllers. The very recent scare on the Qantas flight from Singapore to Perth is rumoured to be connected to mobile phone use.

I don’t know anything about European or Australian mobile telephony, but in the U S we’ve had wireless phones for at least forty-five years. Back in the day, it definitely was not pocket communications; you had a satchel-sized transmitter in your trunk and a console up front with a handset that looked exactly like a landline phone’s handset. This was called a car phone or, more formally, a mobile telephone.

A major-sized city might have a dozen frequencies assigned to it, which meant only that number of connections could be made at the same time. If you were n+1 trying to make a call, you got nuthin’ The charges, both the monthly service fee and the pre-minute fees for calls, were horrendous; no ordinary human being had a mobile phone. Instead, a typical user might be a contractor who had to have communications while on the road, traveling among several projects.

Then cellular technology was developed. A particular tower only covered a few square miles so the same frequency could be used several times over in the same metro area. Other advances, like multiplexing, meant the system could handle hundred, or even thousands, of connections. The phones size shrank, the prices came down, and everyone could afford one. The problem here was, try to sell folks a “mobile phone” and they are going to think of the old, clunky, car phone. Thus, I imagine, the term cell phone was devised to distinguish between the two technologies.

If car phones were not in even rare use in Europe or Oz, no distinguishing is needed; ‘mobile phone’ is a perfectly sensible term to use. The first sentence in the Wiki article Mobile Phone starts out, “The mobile phone (also called a wireless phone or cellular phone . . .” In the U S, not so much.

The answer to you second question I leave to someone who is more knowledgeable about such things.

For number two the answer is from what i understand decided by the FCC not the FAA. Their thoughts where that the plane is traveling so fast the signal would jump from tower to tower to fast for the system to keep up. It didnt have anything to do with flight safety but the FAA just wanted to play it safe and ban them all together. Better be safe then sorry i suppose

Some early mobile telephones were just 2-way radio. We had dialer attached to them to open up a certain radio’s private line code. This was a pulse dialer and would be heard over a scanner when the call was placed. We used 4-4-4 for one hospital and I just can’t remember the other 3-number sequence for the other hospitals we would call. We could even have a Handi-talky with push buttons. This system only worked within reach of “a” tower/antena. There were no “Cells” in those days, Just talk about a system that will make all this obsolete.

Americans call them cell phones because that is what the inventor, Dr. Martin Cooper of Motorola, decided to call them. Why the Europeans had to go and change that name to something else I don’t know. Probably DesertDog’s explanation is as likely as any.

A news article appearing in the Australian press today might have answered the second question. Electromagnetic interference on a plane’s GPS isn’t a pleasant thought.

The FCC does not allow 800MHz devices to be used on aircraft but it is the FAA that is responsible for prohibition of other devices. Offhand I’m not sure which devices operate on 800 MHz in the US but it can’t be *all *mobile phones.