Ameritech Turns on Chicago for the First U.S. Commercial Cellular Radio Service.
The promise of cellular mobile radiotelephone service became a commercial realty last October, when Ameritech Mobile Communications inaugurated service in the Chicagoland area a week after the FCC granted it the first such license.
The speedy initiation of service was possible because the Chicago system was in operating condition as part of a four-year developmental system that was under final test, covering a 2,500-mile, six-county cellular service area--stretching from Lake Forest on the north, to Geneva on the west and Beecher on the south.
Ameritech Mobile Communications was the first subsidiary created by Ameritech, the regional holding company created for the divested Bell telephone companies of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio and Wisconsin Telephone.
William Weiss, chairman of the parent company, emphasizes that The four-year trial of advanced mobile service conducted in Chicago proved that the new technology works well. The 2,000 customers involved in the trial, which began in 1978, gave cellular radio excellent reviews. A full 100 percent of those in the trial said they were satisfied with the service. The consensus was that calling quality is equal to regular landline telephone service and that the cellular system is far superior to conventional mobile service.'
Weiss sees cellular service "going from a phone in the car to a phone in the briefcase, to a phone in the pocket. As technology scales down the size of the set, more and more people are going to use the service.'
He cites industry figures forecasting that the cellular radio market will total $2.7 billion nationally by the end of the decade, with 1.5 million subscribers just in the nation's 30 largest markets.
According to Weiss, "Research indicates the market demand in the five-state area we serve could total more than 300,000 mobile units today, if there were no restrictions on availability or installation. More than three-fourths of that total immediate market potential is in Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit, Cleveland and Indianapolis. We estimate that the Chicago area market potential alone will reach 100,000 customers.'
And who are these customers? According to Ameritech's market research, they're mainly customers who want business-to-business communications-- those who can benefit from cellular service by: keeping to touch with the office, clients, customers and field operators; keeping in touch in between business locations; making on-the-road decisions and sales; and increasing the availability of people.
How Cellular Is Used
Although a new service, Ameritech has some valuable usage data gathered during the Illinois Bell field trial. The following list of general uses was identified by a specified percentage of users during that trial: availability to the office (89 percent); emergency calls (87); calling the office (86); making last-minute changes in schedules (80); calling customers, clients, patients (79); being accessible to customers, clients, patients (69); availability to other offices (69); arranging schedules/ meetings (65); keeping in touch with other employees in vehicles (59); calling vendors/suppliers (49); being able to handle personal or family calls on the road (49); calling ahead, getting directions (48); being accessible to vendors/suppliers (43); doing work, such as dictating letters (41).
The majority of subscribers (59 percent) during the trial actually used their cellular service more often than originally expected.
Ameritech Mobile is the majority owner (93 percent) and will manage the Chicago mobile system in partnership with Centel. Ameritech Mobile will also be the majority owner of cellular systems to be completed this year in Detroit, Milwaukee and Cincinnati.
Starting with 12 Cells
Initially, the Chicago system is using 12 cell sites, with the number to be increased to serve more customers as demand and usage grow. The system is the Autoplex System 100 designed by Bell Labs and manufactured by Western Electric. It can serve up to 100,000 mobile and portable phone users, and operates on the 1A ESS switching system.
Rates for the Chicago system include a $50 per month per telephone line service charge and usage rates of 40 cents per minute during peak calling hours (7 am to 7 pm, Monday through Friday) and 24 cents per minute during off-peak hours.
Basic service includes full-duplex service (speak and listen simultaneously), line accessibility similar to that of home and business phones and access to local, long distance and international calling.
A number of additional service levels are available at extra cost, including incoming and outgoing calling restrictions. Among the others are:
Speed Calling--Ameritech Mobile-approved cellular equipment automatically allows customers to store 10 numbers for quick calling. If they want to store more numbers, the speed-calling option allows eight more numbers to be stored.
Directory Listing--The user's mobile phone number can be listed in a telephone directory in a local service area.
Detailed Billing--Customers receive a monthly bill listing the number of air minutes for calls made or received (Yes, you're also billed for all calls you receive). For more detailed billing, customers can request an additional statement supplementing the monthly bill with a detailed breakdown of each call placed or received.
Cellular Geographic Service Only-- Customers can limit their mobile service to the cellular geographic service area (CGSA). Customers who do not want to make long distance calls billed to their mobile phone number would select this option. But even if they do, they can still place long distance calls through the operator using a credit card, or by calling collect or by charging the call to a third party.
Hot Line--With this option, cellular mobile phone users can call only one predetermined number from the mobile unit, such as calls to an answering service or a dispatcher. There is no limitation on incoming calls.
Incoming Only--Users can only receive calls on their mobile units.
Outgoing Only--An option for customers who don't want to pay for receiving calls on their mobile phones.
Customers obtain service through one of several channels--an Inbound Telemarketing Unit, sales agents and direct sales representatives.
The Inbound Telemarketing Unit is a group of customer consultants reached by dialing an 800 number. After asking some background infromation, the consultant arranges for a sales agent to return the call.
Three Sales Agents
Sales agents are companies under contract with Ameritech Mobile to sell its mobile phone service. They also provide equipment. As authorized service centers, the agents can demonstrate cellular mobile phone service and available types of mobile phones. Agents in the Chicago area presently include Chicago Communication Services, Chicago Mobile Telephone and Metrocom.
Ameritech's mobile service is also sold to major customer accounts directly through its own sales reps, for those accounts that need special applications and features.
There are also service resellers who purchase mobile phone numbers and air time from Ameritech Mobile, and then resell them to users. Resellers can provide service only, or service combined with equipment installation and maintenance.
The cellular system is made up of three major elements, the cell site, the Mobile Telephone Switching Office (MTSO) and the control center.
Within each cell site are radio frames (up to six, although three is the normal maximum), each containing audio processing equipment, radio transceivers and power amplifiers for up to 16 voice channels. All equipment is modular for more economically growth as service demand increases. There's also a control frame containing the equipment for communication with the MTSO, control of voice and data communication with mobiles and control of the cell site maintenance system. This is managed by a microprocessor-based Module Control Unit (MCU). Both the MCU and other critical assemblies have redundant backups, with the off-line unit being automatically switched in when a subassembly malfunctions.
Within the MTSO are landline trunk connections to all call sites and to a telephone company central office. There's also an electronic switching system consisting of processors, memory, switching network, trunk circuits and miscellaneous service circuits. Programs stored in memory provide the logic to control operation. A diesel generator provides uninterrupted service during power failures.
The control center contains landline connection to all MTSOs nationwide. Critical indicator panels and alarms monitor each MTSO and call site to indicate malfunctions. The center can either clear the trouble remotely or notify local field personnel if a site visit is necessary.
How Mobile Sets Work
For the mobile phones, Ameritech is offering the Direct Line set made by OKI Advanced Communications (although sales agents can offer other brands). The cellular set differs from conventional phones in that the numbers are not transmitted as they are dialed. Instead, to minimize air time, they are stored with a display allowing the user to see the number that has been dialed--and then transmitted all at once when the Send button is pushed. Numbers can also be entered and sent with the handset still on the hook.
The mobile phone includes a speaker in the base as well as one in the handset, allowing the user to hear the called party answer before picking up the phone. And with the optional hands-free feature, the user doesn't have to pick up the handset at all--a good idea for talking while traveling winding roads or in heavy traffic.
The Power On/Off button allows the user to turn off the phone when he or she doesn't want to be disturbed. The set can also be left on while the user is away from the car if the optional horn-alert feature is activated. This blows the horn when a call is received (an alternative installation activates the lights rather than the horn).
When the vehicle is being left with attendant parking, or in other situations where the user is concerned about unauthorized use of the phone, the set can be electronically locked, and unlocked by pushing a preset three or four-digit code known only to the user.
Other features include separate volume controls for the base and handset speakers and a switch that adjusts the brightness of the lighted displays for daytime or nighttime viewing.
The Direct Line phone also includes last-number recall and Scratch-Pad Dialing (a number can be stored for later dialing at any time, even when the phone is in use on another call).
OKI has had a long involvement with the Chicago area cellular system, originally working with Bell Laboratories on the design and development of a prototype cellular mobile radio.
It became involved in the AMPS-Illinois Bell Chicago field trial of cellular service in 1973 when it manufactured the first cellular transceiver and control unit. In 1978 OKI delivered 135 "equipment test' mobile transceivers for the technical stage of the trial. In 1982 it received a contract from Illinois Bell to perform all installations, removals and repairs for OKI-manufactured equipment operating in conjunction with the trial system.
The initial reaction of Chicago-area residents to commercial cellular is better than even an optimistic Ameritech had hoped. As of the end of 1983, some 5,200 subscribers have found they can reach out and touch someone more quickly and effectively from their vehicles.
Chicagoland customers may be the first to reap the benefits of cellular mobile radiotelephone service, but others won't be far behind, as explained in the story beginning on page 70, and discussed in other articles in this special report.
Photo: Coverage area of Ameritech Mobile Communications' 12-cell, 2,500-square-mile cellular system now commercially operational in the Chicagoland area.
Photo: For economy, all cell site buildings are constructed to a standard design. Only the height of the antenna tower is varied to meet local conditions. The two downward-pointing antennas (in inset) receive the mobile signal while the upward-pointing antenna transmits.
Photo: The Mobile Telephone Switching Office (MTSO) at Hickory Hills controls all of the cell sites in the Chicago metropolitan area, connecting the sites to the nationwide public phone network.
Photo: The OKI Direct Line mobile telephone system includes the handset and cradle/ speaker (left) for mounting inside the vehicle and the trunk-mounted electronics /power supply package.
Photo: View of the OKI Direct Line mobile phone available through Ameritech Mobile, indicating buttons and functions.
Photo: The first commercial cellular radiotelephone service is now on the road in the Chicagoland area, with initial acceptance far surpassing Ameritech's preliminary projections.
Photo: As part of the opening-day ceremonies held outside Chicago's Soldier Field, Ameritech staged a race to designate the first commercial cellular customer. Race participants included customers selected by Ameritech Mobile's authorized agents, and the agent's FCClicensed installers. Here, the winning customer, David Meilahn (left), completes his first call. Accompanying the Oak Park insurance company owner are his wife, Gail, and the other half of the winning team--Jeff Benuzzi, technician with Chicago Communication Service.
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|Date:||Feb 1, 1984|
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