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Analog cellular networks, R.I.P.: 1983 - 2008

Chris Ziegler
02.18.08
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Marking the end of a remarkable era in cellular technology, the FCC is officially letting American carriers decommission their legacy analog networks as of today, February 18, 2008. Few of us still own a phone based on AMPS -- Advanced Mobile Phone System, ironically, despite the fact that there's been nothing "advanced" about it for many years -- but we owe the very existence of the world's modern wireless infrastructure to the introduction and overwhelming success of the Bell Labs-developed technology. So successful was AMPS, in fact, that it eventually covered virtually 100 percent of the continental United States, a statistic CDMA and GSM have only recently begun to approach.



In the US, Verizon, AT&T, and Alltel operate AMPS networks, and it's no secret that they've been itching to flip off the switch just as soon as the government would allow in order to free up cell sites, bandwidth, and maintenance dollars for modern digital systems (in fact, AT&T will be taking the opportunity to shut down its first-generation digital network as well). Verizon and AT&T begin closing their doors on cellular history this week, while Alltel will take a more gradual approach, phasing out its AMPS operations through September of this year.

So on that note, if you've got a late-model vehicle equipped with OnStar, DynaTAC, MicroTAC, Lifestyle, or some other relic from Motorola's glory days lying around, give it a proper send-off: light it up one last time, let it handshake with the airwaves it'll never see again, and in the unlikely event you still have an active account, place a call. Then take a second to marvel at how far we've come and go back to that Voyager, Tilt, or iPhone, knowing that in another 25 years, we could be doing it all over again.

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