Keeping Analog Mobile Phones Alive

from the sounds-familiar dept

It’s not just the television broadcast industry that is struggling over when to finally shut off their analog systems and move completely to digital, apparently. The FCC is also expecting that mobile phone providers will start phasing out analog usage in 2008 — but apparently that’s upsetting a bunch of rural mobile phone subscribers who are worried that the digital only signal won’t work by them. It’s a legitimate concern, of course, but mobile operators are pretty clearly working to stretch digital signals as far as they can. It’s not as if they’re sitting still with what they have — so, complaints like “There’s no chance of going with digital. I had digital and that wasn’t as good as the analog,” from a 79-year-old are being a bit silly. Digital may not have been as good when you first tried it, but it’s getting better. Obviously, if the operators can’t really cover the same areas with digital signals, then it’s an issue that needs to be addressed. But completely counting out the idea of digital based on one lousy experience, early on in a network’s growth is jumping to conclusions a bit too quickly. Sounds sort of like all those “tech experts” who were saying that cameraphones would never catch on because the quality wasn’t very good.

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Comments on “Keeping Analog Mobile Phones Alive”

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Analog Andy says:

Re: Digital better ? ... HA !

Funny how my analog phone got clear reception, good signal & seemed like a technology that worked … a decade ago.

Along comes ” new & improved ” digital & I now experience dropped calls, low reception, loads of dumbshit features I don’t want and this is considered progress ?

I don’t blame those not wanting to give up RELIABLE analog service.

Mike … ” getting better ” is a cop-out kind of thing I would expect to hear from a McMoron about why something is below par , not you. …

The fact is analog works just fine in many instances and digital doesn’t.

I’d lovew to my analog phones back …

Can you hear me now ? … oh sorry I got static & drop out on that ” improving ” digital technology that makes analog so obsolete …

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Digital better ? ... HA !

Well, you’ve clearly had much better luck with analog than I have. My experience was that it was staticy, I had a lot more dropped calls, and it didn’t allow me to do lots of things that are useful now. It’s also a lot cheaper.

Plus, it was easy for people to listen in on your phone calls.

As for complaining about “getting better,” that’s the story of our times. The technology that eventually wins often starts out much worse than the tech it replaces… but it keeps getting better all of the time. Eventually, it passes it.

I know that right now the coverage isn’t nearly as good — which is why the point was that the coverage needs to improve for digital. But, the complaints that digital will never be as good as analog or that the coverage isn’t there are meaningless. As the technology and the coverage improve (and there is still quite some time before they’ll turn off analog) those arguments go away.

So, I don’t quite see why you’re clinging to them. Yeah, digital may not be there now, but the point is that by the time digital goes away, it should be at least as good if not better. If your argument is just “digital sucks now” then you’ve missed the point.

mgallagher says:

A little more complicated than it sounds

There are a bunch of non-voice applications built around analog cell technology in rural areas that will be (and have been) affected by a move to digital coverage.
I believe that digital devices have a maximum transmit power of 500mW, where analog systems can use up to 3W transmitters. Although the data rate stinks (1200 bps is outstanding in this world) the long range and low cost of analog systems make them very attractive for roadside message sign control, pump-station SCADA systems, and some vehicle location applications.
While I’m sure that digital networks will eventually become “dense” enough to work for all of these applications, they definitely aren’t there now for a number of small but important safety applications.

Beck says:

Fewer Tri-Mode

Until recently most digital phones were tri-mode – they will fall back to an analog network signal if they can’t find a digital signal. However, none of the latest top-of-the line phones at Verizon, such as the LG VX8100, Motorola e815 and Samsung a890, will work on the analog network.

The best thing about the analog phone that is permanently installed in the car is that my wife can’t lose it or forget to charge it. The problem is that she’s getting a new car, and Verizon no longer has the facilities to uninstall-reinstall the phone. I had to get her a digital phone, and they did not even want me to give our leased analog phone back to them.

beezle (user link) says:

move to the sticks

and you will realize why you still need analog. Up
here at my winter place in central VT I had no cell
service (Verizon) until I got a tri-mode phone
(Cingular). Sadly Cingular told me a few months
ago they plan on ixnaying the analog. I think
they FCC should not force any changeover and in
fact should mandate that the system cant be changed
until there are enough towers in place to support
digital with the same quality as existing analog

Pete Austin says:

Make them reliable first

Verbatim transcript of a mobile phone conversation. No editing has taken place.
Hello … Hello? Who? Who? Oh, hi …
What? I’m at Footscray. FOOTSCRAY STATION.
Train Station …
WHAT? … I can’t hear you … I can …
I said Footscray station …
We’re just pulling out … WHAT ? I can’t hear you …
I said Footscray … No, the station.
I’m on the train … I can’t hear you …
the train … the train … on the train …
Sorry, mate, I can’t hear you … WHAT ? …
I think it’s all the overhead …WHAT ? …
say again ? … no the station.
I’m on the train … FOOTSCRAY … I can’t hear you …
Can you call me back …
Hello? …
Can you call me back in 10 minutes …
I said 10 MINUTES …
I can’t hear you … hello … mate, you’re breaking up …
it’s the overhead wires …no the wires …
WHAT? … Sorry …
Didn’t catch that …no, it’s the overhead wires …
What? … and the trains are loud …
What? … no, the battery is fine …
I said the battery is FINE … can you …
Sorry? … the battery is fine … I said …
a tale from the mobile age

Pete Austin says:

Re: Re: Make them reliable first

Mike, I chose the transcript for humour value. It’s probably from an analogue call, given the date and location, but we all know that this sort of thing still happens with the latest digital ‘phones, six years later.

I don’t understand why cellphone makers prioritize optional extras, like cameras and ring tones and new transmission methods, instead of making something that WORKS RELIABLY AS A ‘PHONE. If a PC crashed even 1% as frequently as a mobile ‘phone conversation is dropped, nobody would buy PCs.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Make them reliable first

Indeed. I’m all for improved service — and we’ve written that before. I’m sure plenty of people would agree with that, but I also think that the mobile operators are improving greatly on that front. And, I should mention, I think my computer does crash much more often than my mobile phone drops a call. But, then again, I use my computer a lot more than my phone. But, I do use the phone pretty frequently, and I get maybe one dropped call every two months or so.

Bob says:

Re: Re: Re: Make them reliable first

I don’t understand why cellphone makers prioritize optional extras, like cameras and ring tones and new transmission methods, instead of making something that WORKS RELIABLY AS A ‘PHONE. If a PC crashed even 1% as frequently as a mobile ‘phone conversation is dropped, nobody would buy PCs.

I have not had a droped call in over 2 years (plenty of computer crashes tho in the same time) and all my personal calls are on a mobile

I also can not believe that anyone still has an analog phone as here in the UK I have had 5 phones in the last 7 years and none of them were analog. I must admit I have a problem with my 3G signal outside town.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Make them reliable first

Pete, what makes you say its probably analogue given the date and location?

It was in Melbourne Australia, and not too long after that date analogue was phased out. If I remember back to that date correctly I would say that its very little chance it was analogue.

Anyway, regardless, this problem we are talking about is not analogue vs digital. I can’t say for certain what it is but here in australia I rarely if ever get a dropped call, bad reception etc.

Having just returned from living in CA for 5 years I would have to say that US cell service just plain sucks. its 2-3 years behind, there are dead spots every where, calls get dropped etc.

BUT… it is much cheaper. and THAT I suspect is the answer. There are probably not enough towers and so when switching towers your call gets dropped. Same reason for dead spots (and drops for that reason), same reason for call not getting through etc.

of course that may just be a CA, bay area thing too.

of course as mentioned it may depend on the type of digital service too, not to mention the frequency difference.

Spam says:

It's security, silly.

Analog = insecure. Easy to clone.
Digital = more secure. Very difficult to clone, as long as the switches support authentication. (Many in Mexico don’t, and cloning of digital (not GSM, tho) phones happens a lot down there.)

What’s more of a problem to older folks is that the handset makers are too busy targetting the tweens & twentysomethings. Handsets have too many features that seniors don’t use and smaller keypads, making dialing difficult.

/me worked as a customer care rep for AT&T Wireless for many years. The “too many features” and “keys are too small” was a *very* common complaint from older customers, but manufacturers don’t seem to care.

Also, I very very very *rarely* had any analog customers. Probably 5 of them in as many years.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: It's security, silly.

What’s more of a problem to older folks is that the handset makers are too busy targetting the tweens & twentysomethings. Handsets have too many features that seniors don’t use and smaller keypads, making dialing difficult.

Indeed. That’s another problem we’ve written about before, but in the last year there have been new attempts to create phones and service plans targeted at older users… so hopefully it won’t be as big an issue in the future. One of the benefits of aging baby boomers is that it’s a large market, and companies will start making products for those users.

Greg says:

yeah, but which digital is being compared?

In Australia we had this years ago. The govt set a deadline to close all analog to encourage other vendors to enter our digital mobile market – which was then GSM-only. The GSM protocol simply doesn’t cannot be reliable beyond about 22km.

Analog was extended for a while, and CDMA introduced, with much greater range than GSM. Still, some analog users found CDMA didn’t have the same reach.

Since then, CDMA handsets have improved so the new ones are better themselves than the 1st CDMA sets were in car kits with wired antennas. And we now have more base stations, and analog is gone. 1x data is available across our CDMA network, gradually becoming EVDO. Just a pity there’s not as much competition in our CDMA market as in our GSM; this has affected the range of handsets available until this year.

Stuart says:

Digital VS Analog

I have been dealing with digital in our area for over four years. It is still crap. The audio gets severely distorted or drops out where an analog signal in the same location would get noisy but would still be listenable. Even after Cingular merged with AT&T and promised to provide “better coverage” I see no changes in the quality of the service. Give me analog over digital anytime!

Zorkmid says:

Analog going away..?

Don’t count on it! A lot of the rural areas will support analog for YEARS to come! It’s just too expensive to switch – for now. Now for the bad news: TDMA and CDMA will be next. Look for TDMA to be replaced with GSM in the 2009-2010 timeframe. CDMA will follow in 2011. The quad-band GSM fones are getting down right cheap – I just snagged a MotoRazr from tiger-direct for $129, and why? Because Verizon called and said:”your contract expires Feb 22 2008, but we’re going to kill your Motorola Startac (yeah..the dual digital PLUS analog one they sold me on..”It’s OBSOLETE PROOF!” UHuh..) on Feb 18th so..uhmm..we’re willing to offer you a new phone, if you’ll extend your contract another 2 YEARS!”

Not bluddy likely! Another CDMA fone to throw away? no no..
The new MotoRazr is quad-band GSM, and I’ll be able to use it on Euro holidays too. 850/900/1800/1900MHz, just pop in a local SIM or a Mobal Uni-SIM and presto! Instant fone!

I’m gearing up to go to TMobile prepaid, have a look on eBay and you’ll see why if you can do the math. Most all of
the newer fones can run the SIM doublers, so you can also have 2 (or more( SIMs for different carriers. For those of you out in the Sticks (Gawd I wish I was!) I suggest a good bi-directional RF amplifier and a Yagi antenna!

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