The Federal Communications Commission will give up on the idea of allowing cellphone use on airplanes, the chairman said on Thursday, because it is not clear whether the network on the ground can handle the calls.
While the chairman, Kevin J. Martin, cited a technical reason, thousands of air passengers have written to the F.C.C., urging rejection of the proposal because of the potential for irritating passengers in airline cabins. The Federal Aviation Administration had been laying the groundwork to allow in-flight cellphone use.
Both agencies would have had to approve before the phones could be legally used on board.
The problem cited by Mr. Martin did not have to do with flight safety or the mood in the cabin, but a problem raised by the cellphone industry. The system is designed for phones to communicate with a single cell tower at a time. But a cellphone that is several miles in the air can contact many towers at once, tying up circuits in all of them, the industry argued.
“The record was still unclear as to whether it would create interference, so at this time it doesn’t make as much sense to go forward,” Mr. Martin told reporters. A motion to drop the proceeding, which began in December 2004, is now circulating among the five commissioners.