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Analog Cellular Shutdown To Hit Built-In Devices 173

Nick Kilkenny sends us an AP article on the imminent shutdown of the US analog cellular network, now 24 years old. The network is scheduled to go dark on Feb. 18, 2008; some users, such as OnStar, are stopping analog service at the end of this year. Here's a list of devices and industries that will be affected by the shutdown. (Cellular telephony won't be affected much.) "The shutdown date has been known years in advance, but some industries appear to have a had a problem updating their technologies and informing their customers in advance... General Motors Corp., which owns OnStar, started modifying its cars after the 2002 decision by the Federal Communications Commission to let the network die, but some cars made as late as 2005 can't use digital networks for OnStar, nor can they be upgraded. For some cars made in the intervening years, GM provides digital upgrades for $15." Update: 12/22 22:25 GMT by KD : Replaced two registration-required links.
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Analog Cellular Shutdown To Hit Built-In Devices

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  • is the one saving grace of analog, but in real life tests apparently the GSM technology still outperforms analog in terms of range, so even that one may not be holding... I think that analog is coming to an end in all communications fields, it will soon be the exclusive domain of HAM radio operators again.
    • by Snorpus ( 566772 )
      Why do people insist on capitalizing "ham", as if it were an acronym? It's just a nickname, if you will, for amateur radio operator. You don't see GEEK, or NERD, or QUILTER.

      • Well, because otherwise they might think it refers to pig meat ? Maybe we should get rid of capital letters altogether :)

        I humbly apologize and will never use HAM again but will in the future refer to 'persons that have amateur radio communications as their hobby' ;)

        • Well, because otherwise they might think it refers to pig meat ?

          I agree with you. Uppercase "HAM" is for radio operators and lowercase "ham" is for little piggies. The only time someone should use "ham radio" is this site:


      • Don't worry. I've ranted about it before:

        OS\X? I'm sorry, but I have a hard time taking seriously most posts that misspell or miscapitalize the common topic of their point. And to people who spent a lot of time working with the stuff it's like reading a post that confuses 'loose' and 'lose' or 'whose' and 'who's'

        It's been out for 6 years now at no point have I ever seen it referred to as OS\X. In the same manner It's not Windows\XP or X\P or ViSTA. They're not MACS or MACs or MaCs. It's not an IPOD or an Ip
    • ... in real life tests apparently the GSM technology still outperforms analog in terms of range, ...

      Range, maybe yes. Though lower power it's also less susceptable to interference. So perhaps the range from the tower to the phone is comparable, despite the factor of 6 power difference.

      But coverage? Hell no!

      To convert equivalent range to equivalent coverage you have to convert all the cell sites to digital. This has NOT happened.

      Analog cell sites cover virtually all of the central 48 states. GSM and oth
      • by gl4ss ( 559668 )
        I was amazed that there even WAS an analog network still running in usa. and even more that someone had manufactured and sold cars utilizing one in 2005!

        nmt around here had very large cells(back when it was online, more than a decade ago?), but that was afaik more due to the freq being 450mhz than to anything else.

        your telcos just suck, even more than ours(for not having coverage). population density and such are no excuses really, since pretty much all of this not that tightly habitated country is gsm cove
    • Even that may be on it's way out for HF [] as well as VHF/UHF []
  • Crap (Score:3, Informative)

    by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Saturday December 22, 2007 @06:16PM (#21793416) Journal
    Crap. There goes the entertainment value of my scanner that can receive 800-900 MHz.

    Dan East
  • by zakezuke ( 229119 ) on Saturday December 22, 2007 @06:21PM (#21793448)

    The main reason I disapprove of this closure is the existence of 3 watt car phones to which there was NEVER any digital replacement. These are ideal for backwoods environments. Looks like there are boosters but still it's a bit of a hassle.

    I also wonder what will happen to roadside call boxes. Were these AMPS?

    • by sortius_nod ( 1080919 ) on Saturday December 22, 2007 @06:40PM (#21793538) Homepage
      We had a massive incident here in Australia where a plane came down in the bush, noone for 100's of kms. The pilot had both analog and digital mobiles. The unfortunate thing was that he had no digital coverage and the closest analog tower had been shut down. Pilot & passangers all died from exposure and it came out that if the analog tower was active they could have made a call to get help.

      The digital tower had actually taken the spot of the analog tower. This gave us another few years of analog and a dodgy attempt to get the same range as analog out of digital (Telstra call it Next-G, but it's just 3.5g with a massive boosting system). The solution definately doesn't work, not when techs in the bush call me saying "I used to be able to call anyone from within the server room here, now I can't... *dropout* et *dropout*... *click*".

      • by TooMuchToDo ( 882796 ) on Saturday December 22, 2007 @07:33PM (#21793830)
        It's easy in your story to put blame on the carrier. Not their fault though. If you're going to be flying somewhere and you're not absolutely sure of the coverage (and you're flying in fairly undeveloped areas), you need to get one of two things:

        1) An iridium phone. They're not too expensive compared to other aircraft avionics. They work almost anywhere in the world. And you can get prepaid versions if you don't want a huge monthly fee.

        2) An ELT. []

        This satellite PLB is the smallest, most functional emergency transmitter available. In an emergency, it could quite simply save your life. It transmits on 406 MHz via the COSPAS-SARSAT satellite system with a registered unique, digitally encoded distress signal and 121.5 MHz homing frequency. Plus, onboard GPS acquires LAT/LON when the unit is activated, meaning search and rescue crews will know your location within 100 meters. It is unaffected by terrain, obstructions or weather, and works anywhere in the world. It is also buoyant and totally waterproof. Weighs just 12 oz. and measures 1 3/4"d x 5 3/4"h x 3"w. Powered by two lithium-ion batteries.

        Yes, these two items are expensive. But no more then an annual on your plane or the radio equipment onboard. Blame rests solely on the pilot for the safety of himself and those who he/she carries.

  • by kbahey ( 102895 ) on Saturday December 22, 2007 @06:31PM (#21793510) Homepage
    The list of affected services is on a registration required site.

    Here is a link from Associated Press [] that does not need registration.
  • Not only OnStar (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kent_eh ( 543303 ) on Saturday December 22, 2007 @06:31PM (#21793512)
    When my employer (a cell company who shall not be named) killed off our analog system we sent out notices to all analog subscribers over a year in advance.
    And 6 months in advance.
    And each month for the last 3 months.
    2 weeks before shutdown one customer, an alarm company, threatened to sue us to keep it on the air because they hadn't had enough advance warning to get their customers' installations upgraded.

    Apparently they didn't believe we would actually do it.

    And, yes it is worth shutting it down. The power savings alone were significant. Rack space and floor space as well.
    It also freed up a lot of spectrum for re-deployment for high speed data and other stuff that I'm not allowed to talk about yet.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Zadaz ( 950521 )
      In software one year is a very long time.

      In hardware it can be the blink of an eye.

      Posting a sign "Bridge out 100 ft ahead" is enough warning for a bicycle and most cars, but if I'm driving a freight train I'm fucked.
      • by kent_eh ( 543303 )
        They had a year to say something. Instead, they sent a lawyer's "OMFG" letter 50 weeks after we told them what we were planning to do.
    • by tacocat ( 527354 )
      When you consider the economics of the number of digital channels you can carry in an analog band and the amount of physical hardware space it's a no brainer.
  • No!!! (Score:3, Funny)

    by GreyWolf3000 ( 468618 ) on Saturday December 22, 2007 @08:28PM (#21794118) Journal
    You can pry my Zach Morris [] out of my cold, dead hands.
  • If the analog cell services are going off-line in Februrary, it's high time to dismantle the 800MHz band "cell-phone block" for scanning receivers. That was enacted only to create a minimal level of privacy for analog cell phone conversations. When all cell phones are using digital spread spectrum transmissions they all will benefit from spread spectrum's inherent encryption. Security is exactly what Hedy Lamarr [] had in mind when inventing spread spectrum.

    The 800MHz block will soon be a useless relic, and s

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 22, 2007 @09:25PM (#21794416)
    This is in fact not a mandatory analog shutdown, but the date that cellular phone companies are ALLOWED to decomission analog. They're required to keep analog UP until this date, not shut it down at that date. The good word from AT&T is they are shutting analog down as soon as allowed. Verizon, I've heard both that they are shutting it down ASAP and that they aren't (I'm guessing it's up to each Verizon region to decide if they do or not?). I thought US Cellular had specifically said they plan to keep analog up in some areas until at least 2012. And, local providers, they may decide if it's not broke, don't fix it.

              This doesn't negate the point of the article, since many places will lose analog. But, I'm guessing some of these ultra-rural desert and forest type situations, the local provider may keep analog up, at least for a while. Ultimately, though, there's no new equipment available, and indeed I've heard service parts are low too, so it'll have to go once it's unservicable.
    • Ultimately, though, there's no new equipment available, and indeed I've heard service parts are low too, so it'll have to go once it's unservicable.

      True enough but shutting down a lot of sites means a plethora of slightly used replacement parts sitting around...

      So they might be able to keep some stuff going for quite a while.

  • Take a look at Sprint PCS coverage for Northern California. [] See those huge grey areas? That's "Analog Roam" territory. We're not talking about Nevada desert here, far from civilization. These are areas within fifteen miles of Silicon Valley.

    • Except the region you're declaring sparse is Open Space Preserve and State Parks [].

      QED. At least pick a REAL logical fallacy next time.
      • It's always struck me as odd that there isn't GSM coverage on the western side of Mount Hamilton - there are actually people living there, it's in direct line of sight from the valley (and only a couple of miles away).
    • Hey, I live in the Nevada desert!

      Analog is only cell signal you can count on in this state. I'd always try to buy a cell phone with analog mode in case I ever wanted to drive anywhere that's not Reno or Vegas, but the selection has dwindled to nothing. And on a PDA phone? Forget it. Instead, I keep an old Nokia TDMA/AMPS phone in my car just in case since it'll still dial 911 and gets better range than any current phone.
  • Looks like Baghdad Jim McDermott (C-WA) will have to find another way to dig for dirt on his opponents...if the dirty bastard doesn't run out of money [] first:

    McDermott's legal troubles began roughly a decade ago, when a Florida couple using a police radio scanner taped the cell phone conference call of Republican leaders after recognizing Gingrich's voice.

    The couple, John and Alice Martin, ultimately delivered the tape to McDermott while on a trip to the nation's capital in January 1997. They later plead

  • You were a good phone with all of your CTEK enabled goodness. I for one miss the days of A/B channel cellular in Los Angeles. It may have taken a while to actually get a call to go through but once you were connected, the call quality was rock solid. When the call dropped it dropped, but when it was connected, it was much more clear than the digital connections we have today.
  • I miss it, kind of, nice in car, actually a long reach with a long antenna, but portables were heavy! see : NMT ( [] ). But much earlier than people think, started the problems, instead going home drive to the next customer!

This process can check if this value is zero, and if it is, it does something child-like. -- Forbes Burkowski, CS 454, University of Washington