The United States Federal Communications Commission is considering allowing airline passengers to use their mobile phones for calls and text messaging during flights, setting up a challenging debate over technical and social implications. Last month, the country's Federal Aviation Administration said it would allow expanded use of electronic devices aboard planes, ending a long-standing ban. But the devices are still not allowed to connect to any ground networks and FCC rules have long banned the use of mobile phones on planes. The new proposal, to be voted on at the FCC's December 12 meeting, would let airlines decide whether to allow passengers to make phone calls, send texts or otherwise use their own wireless data and call services during flights - although still not during take-off or landing. "Modern technologies can deliver mobile services in the air safely and reliably, and the time is right to review our outdated and restrictive rules," FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said on Thursday in announcing that he had circulated the proposal. But the battle could turn out to be a lengthy one, with experts warning that passengers are not too welcoming of the prospect of listening to their neighbours' chatter during a flight. Delta Air Lines, for instance, said on Thursday it would not allow mobile-phone use even if the FCC approved it, citing an "overwhelming sentiment" in customer feedback against voice calls in flight. United Continental and Southwest Airlines also said that their customers had expressed concerns about mobile-phone use during flights. Both carriers said they would study any changes the FCC might make. "Passengers overwhelmingly reject cellphone use in the aircraft cabin," the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA union said, urging the FCC to not proceed with its proposal. The union expressed concerns that the conversations could be a distraction during emergencies and imperil safety. Some experts also questioned whether the new rules would put a virtually impossible burden on flight attendants to ensure that mobile phones were on but disconnected from the networks while planes were below 3,000 metres during take-offs and landings. Concerns about the use of mobile phones have already killed off one similar push at the FCC to relax its ban. The agency reviewed the matter from 2004 to 2007 - in the era predating the widespread use of smartphones and gadgets connected to wireless networks. The five-member FCC will vote on the new proposal and then collect a new round of comments. It would eventually finalise its rules in conjunction with the FAA, which last month relaxed the rule that electronic devices be shut down during take-off and landing. FCC officials say the new proposal would impose some technical requirements for airlines that decide to allow the use of phones on board. Experts point out that the technology already exists to collect phone calls and route them to the ground, solving the problem of having to jump from one cell tower to another to complete the call. Some airlines in Europe, the Middle East and Asia already allow in-flight phone use, FCC officials say. The FCC in May also started deliberations on a proposal that would offer a new type of in-flight broadband service promising to provide passengers with higher Wi-fi speeds and better connections. US travellers can already go online on some flights. But the speed of such services, which rely on connections with antennas on the ground or satellites, is slow.