Because cellphones rely on ground-based cell towers to communicate, cellphones won't receive a signal when a plane is more than 10,000 feet in the air, says IDC Asia Pacific's director of telecom research, Bill Rojas. The number of towers on the ground may also be limited when a plane flies over a rural area, and if the plane is traveling more than 155 mph, the cellphone will have trouble switching from tower to tower, Rojas says.

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