Coming Soon: A Cellular Radio System Near You.
Cellular mobile radiotelephone service will pick up a full head of steam during 1984, as most, if not all, of the systems for the top 30 markets come on line. As explained in the story on page 60, the first commercial cellular system went into operation in Chicago last October, a "wireline' system being provided by Ameritech Mobile Communications, a subsidiary of the midwestern group of divested Bell operating companies. Illinois Bell had been operating a developmental system there since 1978.
The first non-wireline system is also up and running in the Washington, D.C./ Baltimore area, being operated by Cellular One, a consortium of five companies, one of whom is American TeleServices (ATS), which has been operating a developmental system in the area. ATS was recently acquired by Metromedia. Other members of the group include Graphic Scanning, Metrocall, Metromedia and Metropolitan Radio Telephone Systems.
While the US has lagged other countries around the world in initiating commercial cellular systems (there are a couple dozen systems in about 15 other countries), this year will see the US move ahead of the other nations; as we said, primarily in the top 30 domestic markets. How quickly the smaller markets develop rests in large part with the FCC.
It took the FCC nearly a year to process the 190 applications (138 non-wireline and 52 wireline in the top 30 areas. The Commission says it expects tht it will take until mid-to-late-1984 to grant licenses in markets 31 through 60. It first has to consider some 353 applications 283 non-wireline and 70 wireline). Then there are the 567 applications (484 non-wireline and 83 wireline) for markets 61 through 90, which might not be processed until late-1985, says the FCC. And it doesn't even want to think about the many more to be filed for the markets smaller than the top 90. Trying to find a way out, it's now considering a lottery system for those markets above the top 30 (see story on page 58).
More Under Development
Meanwhile, there are still more developmental systems coming on line. ITT's Telecom Network Systems Division and EF Johnson last September turned up their first Celltrex cellular system. Located at Johnson's facilities in Waseca, Minnesota, the first phase of a multi-site field trial combines ITT Telecom's 1210 digital switch and Johnson's base and mobile radio equipment. The Waseca network consists of five cells and a variety of interconnecting circuits, including digital microwave, T-carrier, optical fiber links and cooper-wire pairs. ITT's Remote Switch Group feature is also included. It extends full services and features of the telephone central office to remotely served communities.
Another major partnership, between Northern Telecome and General Electric, has resulted in a test system in Jacksonville, Florida, at a site owned by Cencom, a division of Communications Industries. The Jacksonville system involves three cells and 100 in-car units.
The Northern Telecom/GE partnership quickly signed up $10 million worth of orders for delivery this year. As of the first of this year, it had commitments to install systems in four of the top 30 markets, plus ones in Toronto and Montreal. In the US, it has a $20 million order from New Vector Communications, the cellular subsidiary of U S West that will provide cellular service in Seattle, Phoenix, Minneapolis /St. Paul, Denver and Salt Lake City, among others.
Partnerships within the respective wireline and non-wireline groups have also speeded up the awarding of construction permits, and spread out the huge financial outlays required for cellular startups.
As this is being written, the Indianapolis system is coming on line, operated as a limited partnership by GTE Mobilenet, Ameritech Mobile, Hancock Rural Telephone and Monrovia Telephone. In additional to operating the system, GTE Mobilenet is selling and servicing mobile and portable phones at retail centers.
Hank Lucas, general manager of FTE Mobilenet, expects about 1,400 people to subscribe to the Indianapolis system during the first year. After five years, he sees a customer base of approximately 12,000 subscribers in the area.
During the next 18 months, GTE Mobilenet expects to operate systems in Tampa, Cleveland, Houston, San Francisco, San Jose and Portland (Oregon). San Francisco will be the largest system in which GTE Mobilenet is the majority owner and operator (the cellular subsidiary of Pacific Telesis, the holding company for Pacific Bell and Nevada Bell, is the minority partner). It's also continuous to the San Jose metropolitan area, which is also to be served by GTE. Being built at a cost of about $14.3 million, the San Francisco system will consist of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo Counties, representing a population of 3.3 million. Initially, GTE will provide cellular service to about 2,400 square miles of the area. At the outset, there will be 18 cells in the system, each with a radius of about eight miles. Future growth requirements will be met by subdividing the initial 18 cells and adding new ones. Lucas estimates that, based on GTE studies, the initial primary users of the system there will be business executives, sales people and service and repair personnel. "We estimate that 75 percent of the conversations will take place with the user's office or with clients and customers.'
Last July, Western Electric (recently folded under the new AT&T Technologies umbrella) signed an agreement with AT&T's Advanced Mobile Phone Service (AMPS) subsidiary, the operations of which are now under the seven Bell regional holding companies, with contracts potentially worth up to $250 million over five years. It means that the Bell Labs and Western Electric-developed Autoplex cellular system could be in 20 major metropolitan areas.
Motorola, another of the major cellular hardware suppliers, also have been busy lining up orders since last summer. It, too, has a long track record; it supplied the equipment for the developmental system in the Washington/Baltimore area. The company estimates it's spent more than $100 million on research and development over the years. Last July, AT&T's AMPS selected Motorola to provide a minimum of ten systems, from a list of 32 on the FCC's list of three top-city tiers. The company estimates that initial order will be worth $50 million, and potentially two to three times that over five years for related sales of services and subscriber equipment not part of the contract.
Among Motorola's non-wireline contracts is one for the Milwaukee system from Milwaukee Telephone Company, a partnership between a subsidiary of Graphic Scanning and Westel. Seven cell sites will be used.
NYNEX Mobile Communications, the cellular subsidiary of the holding company created by New York Tel and New England Tel, has been busy signing agents to sell new mobile cellular products and services in the New York metropolitan area.
NYNEX has already been granted construction permits for New York, Buffalo and Boston, and has applications pending for Albany, Syracuse, New Bedford, Springfield, Worcester and Providence. New York City and Buffalo are scheduled for service by mid-year, and Boston before the end of the year.
Southern New England Telephone, which wasn't affected by the divestiture because AT&T owns only a minority interest, has received construction permits for a cellular system in the Greater Hartford and New Haven areas.
Around the World
As mentioned earlier, some other nations of the world have had operating cellular systems for up to several years. For example, Australia has two systems, in Melborne and Sydney, each with about 3,000 subscribers. Japan has more than a half-dozen separate systems serving a total of about 20,000 subscribers. Saudi Arabia has had a cellular system since September 1981, presently with about 2,000 subscribers. The Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden) operate the Nordic cellular system, which presently serves about 55,000 customers.
Internationally, Motorola will supply a nationwide 800/900-MHz cellular radiotelephone system for the British Telecom-Securicor joint venture in the United Kingdom. The first phase, worth approximately $30 million, includes such cities as London, Birmingham, Manchester and Bristol, plus their motorway links. Public service is expected to start early next year. Motorola also has a contract from the Republic of Korea for a cellular system.
LM Ericsson is another major cellular system supplier with a relatively long track record in the new industry. Its equipment is used in the Nordic cellular system operated by the Scandinavian countries, as well as in Saudi Arabia and Spain, among others. This past October, a large agreement was signed by Thorn Ericsson Telecommunications and the Racal-Electronics Group. Thorn Ericsson, which is jointly owned by Thorn EMI and LM Ericsson, has worked closely with Ericsson Radio Systems. The contract is for the development of a system to meet the United Kingdom's TACS (Total Access Communications System) specification.
In Canada, Communications Minister Francis Fox recently announced the award of a national cellular radio license to Cantel Communications of Montreal. For expects that in the next three to four years Cantel and Canadian telephone companies will invest up to $500 million to establish cellular systems. The primary supplier of cellular equipment will be NovAtel Communications of Alberta.
Back in the United States again, cellular will be making tracks during 1984 to establish itself as a major asset for business communications, and later to more widespread consumer communications. The cities mentioned in this article are only a few of the many that will be providing cellular services before the year is out. Subsequent issues will continue to track the new additions.
Top 30 Cellular
1. New York-Nassau-Suffolk-Newark-Jersey City-Patterson-Clifton-Passaic
2. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim-Santa Ana-Garden Grove-Riverside-San Bernadino-Ontario
5. Detroit-Ann Arbor
7. San Francisco-Oakland
8. Washington, D.C.
9. Dallas-Four Worth
11. St. Louis
12. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood
15. Minnepolis-St. , paul
15. Minneapolis-St. Paul
22. Tampa-St. Petersburg
24. Kansas City
27. San Jose
29. New Orleans
30. Portland (Oregon)
Photo: Help can be on the way much more quickly, as this user of the Jacksonville system is finding out.
Photo: The Mobile Telephone Exchange serves as the nerve center for Jacksonville's three-cell test system installed for Gencom by Northern Telecom and General Electric.
Photo: Information is keyboarded into a cellular telephone Maintenance and Administrative Position (MAP), which provides handling of system maintenance.
Photo: The new GE-Star cellular mobile telephone is undergoing field testing in Jacksonville, as part of the Northern Telecom/General Electric Enterprise cellular system installed for Gencom.
Photo: Mobile operator positions on the Enterprise cellular system provide calling assistance to mobile or land-based users. Services such as credit card or collect calls, third-party billing or assistance in establishing connections are provided.
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|Date:||Feb 1, 1984|
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