Leaders vie for position in mobile computing.
The race is on to provide the wireless communications links needed by the growing ranks of mobile computer users.
Notebook computers, the primary mobile platform, accounted for 13% of personal computer sales in 1992. That figure is expected to increase to 25% within the next couple of years, with notebooks outselling desktop machines by the late 1990s. In addition, pen-based computers and personal digital assistants such as Apple's Newton will push demand for wireless communications.
Communications giants AT&T, MCI (1) (Media Control Interface) A high-level programming interface from Microsoft and IBM for controlling multimedia devices. It provides commands and functions to open, play and close the device.
(2) (Microwave Communications Inc. , GTE GTE General Telephone & Electronics
GTE Génie Thermique et Énergie (French)
GTE Gas Turbine Engine
GTE Global Tropospheric Experiment
GTE Geothermal Energy
GTE Gas Turbine Efficiency plc (Sweden & USA) and the regional Bell operating companies are positioning themselves for the upcoming fray, along with such powerhouses as Motorola and TRW TRW The Real World (TV reality show)
TRW The Right Way
TRW Tactical Reconnaissance Wing
TRW The Retriever Weekly (University of Maryland, Baltimore, MD)
TRW Thompson Ramo Wooldridge Inc . And the Federal Communications Commission Federal Communications Commission (FCC), independent executive agency of the U.S. government established in 1934 to regulate interstate and foreign communications in the public interest. appears ready to open the field to new entries by reallocating parts of the frequency spectrum for wireless networks to support personal communications services See PCS. (PCS (1) (Personal Communications Services) Refers to wireless services that emerged after the U.S. government auctioned commercial licenses in 1994 and 1995. This radio spectrum in the 1. ).
The PCS networks will coexist with the cellular and packet-radio networks now in place. However, they will operate from a great many more locations. Unlike a cellular unit, which can have a range of about 20 miles, the PCS device will be limited to perhaps a few thousand feet. But it will send signals to many more transmitter stations that will be much smaller, cheaper and easier to install than cellular stations. Because the user is never far from a transmitter, PCS units will work within buildings and tunnels.
Under a new policy, the FCC (1) (Federal Communications Commission, Washington, DC, www.fcc.gov) The U.S. government agency that regulates interstate and international communications including wire, cable, radio, TV and satellite. The FCC was created under the U.S. will auction the PCS frequencies rather than using a lottery, awarding licenses to the highest bidder and turning the money over to the U.S. Treasury. It hopes to begin assigning licenses by early next year.
Meanwhile, AT&T is shoring up its position, buying a minority stake in McCaw Cellular Communications, Inc., the largest provider of conventional cellular service in the U.S. It has also agreed to license patents from Spectrum Information Technologies, Inc. for transmitting data over cellular networks. One patent covers a software design that easily separates data from voice transmissions over a cellular network, obviating the need for cellular phone companies to build separate digital data networks.
AT&T's licensing agreement also covers its affiliates, including McCaw, which is working on a project to send data in packets during idle times on cellular voice channels. The so-called Cellular Digital Packet Data (communications, protocol) Cellular Digital Packet Data - (CDPD) A wireless standard providing two-way, 19.2 kbps packet data transmission over exisiting cellular telephone channels. , or CDPD (Cellular Digital Packet Data) A low-speed, digital, wireless data network that is an enhancement to an existing analog cellular network. Based on IBM's CelluPlan II, CDPD provides a packet overlay onto the AMPS network and moves data at 19. project, is a joint technology development effort by IBM (International Business Machines Corporation, Armonk, NY, www.ibm.com) The world's largest computer company. IBM's product lines include the S/390 mainframes (zSeries), AS/400 midrange business systems (iSeries), RS/6000 workstations and servers (pSeries), Intel-based servers (xSeries) and a consortium of national cellular companies, including McCaw, Ameritech Mobile Communications, Inc., Bell Atlantic Mobile Systems and GTE Mobile.
MCI is involved with a different type of consortium, one that hopes to win a license to build a national personal communications network Personal Communications Network (PCN) is the European digital cellular mobile telephone network, developed in accordance with GSM standards. . In its consortium, MCI would be a national manager in charge of network services, technical standards and national marketing. Other members would build and operate personal communications services systems and provide equipment and software.
Other proposals for international wireless networks use low-orbiting satellites as communications relays for the mobile computers. Because the satellites circle the earth at distances of a few hundred to several thousand miles, they appear to move across the sky. The only way to provide continuous service is to launch them in a series so that one will always appear overhead just as another is disappearing over the horizon.
Compared with geostationary satellites in orbits 22,300 miles above the Equator, which seem to hover over one spot on earth, the low-orbiting models need less power, are easier to launch and can pick up signals from weak transmitters. They also avoid the delays with geostationary satellites caused by the signal's 45,000-mile round trip.
TRW of Cleveland, Ohio, has advanced a $1.3 billion, 12-satellite plan called Odyssey, while New York-based Loral Corp. has proposed an $830 million, 48-satellite plan in a joint venture with Qualcomm, Inc. of San Diego. The satellites link the mobile devices to regional ground stations, which switch and route the traffic over long-distance phone lines.
An ambitious $3.4 billion plan by Motorola, known as the Iridium iridium (ĭrĭd`ēəm), metallic chemical element; symbol Ir; at. no. 77; at. wt. 192.22; m.p. about 2,410°C;; b.p. about 4,130°C;; sp. gr. 22.55 at 20°C;; valence +3 or +4. project, uses 77 more sophisticated satellites to pick up traffic from mobile users anywhere on earth, relaying it from satellite to satellite and bypassing long-distance companies.
For mobile users who can't wait, Motorola and its partner, IBM, have opened their Ardis packet-radio national data network to public use. Plus, in October, RAM Mobile Data RAM Mobile Data was originally founded by RAM Broadcasting Corporation as American Mobile Data Communications, Inc. in 1988. The name of the company was changed to RAM Mobile Data in 1989. RAM Mobile Data was the U.S. Operator of the Mobitex network. , Inc. and its financial backer, Bell South, will launch the Mobitex packet-data radio network.
The Ardis network was developed from an IBM-operated private network and serves more than 8,000 cities in the 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Monthly service charges run from $100 to $150. Mobitex will be available in more than 6,000 U.S. cities for a monthly charge of $50 to $80. Both services also charge a nominal fee for each packet sent.