USA Today is reporting that FCC chair Kevin Martin won't pursue dropping an in-flight cell phone use ban: The FAA has one set of airworthiness objections that have been working their way through technical advisory committees; the FCC has another set, related to use of the spectrum in air and, frankly, the social issues. The thousands of comments they received on lifting the ban made for amusing reading: in sum, lord no! The paper reports that most of the FCC commissioners support Martin's position. (USA Today got the lead from Communications Daily, they note.)
Aircell's chief Jack Blumenstein is quoted in this article as expressing little concern; Aircell made no bones over the last couple of years that their business was broadband, not mobile phones--unless carriers and passengers wanted it. Major carriers I spoke to last fall, including United and Delta, said their passengers had no interest in it and thus neither did they.
Aircell is in an advantageous situation, because they purchased enough bandwidth at a decent price in the air-to-ground spectrum auction last summer to provide broadband service at a fee that should result in good uptake. The finances are there for that to work. They don't need mobile calling to make their business work.
In Europe and Asia, there's been no similar comprehensive air-to-ground auctions that I'm aware of that would allow an overland offering, and in-flight telecom is limited to expensive satellite service. OnAir's rollout of mobile calling in Europe--at about $2.50 per minute--should see its first connected aircraft any day now. Satellite bandwidth with the system that OnAir, Aeromobile, and others have committed to so far is financially untenable for mass-market in-flight broadband.