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CEA Focus…Airline Policies for Wireless Devices

Just in time for Fourth of July travel, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) announced a standardization project to facilitate the managed use of wireless devices brought on board commercial aircraft and used by passengers during flight.

“With the busy summer travel season underway and the increasing popularity of wireless portable electronics with both business and leisure travelers, now is an perfect time to reiterate the importance of creating a new industry standard that will help manage the use of these devices on board commercial aircraft,” said Douglas Johnson, senior director for technology policy at CEA. “Some airlines are beginning to liberalize their policies regarding usage of wireless devices, and CEA hopes to work with the airlines and other organizations as they develop and implement these changes.”

A CEA working group, involving more than 35 representatives of wireless device and component manufacturers, airlines, pilots, and flight attendants, is developing an industry “recommended practice” that will provide a standard way of showing that a wireless device’s transmitter is disabled. The group aims to complete and distribute the recommended practice by fall 2004.

“On many wireless consumer electronics products, there is no consistent way to demonstrate that the device’s transmitter is switched off,” said Johnson. “Ensuring that a device’s wireless transmitter is disabled is important in certain environments, such as aboard aircraft, but also in some hospital locations.”

During certain phases of commercial flight, present regulations and airline policy typically require all portable electronic devices to be turned off and stowed. It is foreseeable that during certain times, some wireless technologies might be permitted for use on board some commercial aircraft in the future. However, other wireless technologies might not be.

“Many wireless devices can operate without transmitting, such as the use of a game player on a mobile phone, or the use of a personal organizer on a wireless PDA,” added Johnson. “In these and similar cases, we expect it will be useful for airline passengers and others to know and be able to verify whether the wireless part of their device is enabled or disabled.”

CEA’s working group, which meets regularly, was formed in late 2003 to address three issues related to the use of wireless devices. The first is to develop a consistent and easily identifiable symbol, which indicates that a wireless device’s transmitter is disabled; the second is to make it easy to disable and enable a device’s wireless transmitter; and the third is to encourage consistent terminology across the airline and technology industries with regard to portable electronic devices.

About CEA:

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) is the preeminent trade association promoting growth in the consumer technology industry through technology policy, events, research, promotion and the fostering of business and strategic relationships. CEA represents more than 1,500 corporate members involved in the design, development, manufacturing, distribution and integration of audio, video, mobile electronics, wireless and landline communications, information technology, home networking, multimedia and accessory products, as well as related services that are sold through consumer channels. Combined, CEA’s members account for more than $90 billion in annual sales. CEA’s resources are available online at www.CE.org, the definitive source for information about the consumer electronics industry. CEA also sponsors and manages the International CES – Defining Tomorrow’s Technology. All profits from CES are reinvested into industry services, including technical training and education, industry promotion, engineering standards development, market research and legislative advocacy.