Cell carriers switching to digital

Published 8:11 pm Friday, January 4, 2008

By By ERIKA PICKLES / Niles Daily Star
NILES – If you have been carrying the same cell phone for more than four years, you may want to check into purchasing a new one.
As of Feb. 18, the Federal Communications Commission is requiring all cellular carriers to switch to digital and no longer provide analog services. The reason, according to the FCC's Web site, is that digital technology is known to be more effective and efficient than analog service since it uses less bandwidth.
Owner of Basic Communications in the Niles Plaza, Kevin Lewis, said the switch from analog to digital would allow service carriers to offer more services to customers, as more space in the towers will be available.
"First off, it's important for people to understand that this is only going to affect a small amount of people. It will effect those who have been carrying the same cell phone for years. I've been in this business for four years and I have never seen any analog devices being sold or made in that time frame," Lewis said.
And not all carriers will be affected by this change. Those who receive service from AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Alltel, U.S. Cellular or other analog cellular radio equipment such as an alarm system and OnStar systems should consider checking to see if they are using analog or digital.
Lewis, who is an Alltel and NEXTEL dealer, said customers have been informed of this for months, so it should be no surprise.
"The biggest complaint we will probably see is if people have to purchase a new phone, they will have to renew a contract. But I honestly cannot see this affecting that many people," he said.
Lewis also said he wouldn't be surprised if subscribers carrying analog phones would be entitled to a new one, free of charge.
"I don't know if it will happen, but it's a possibility," he added.
Lewis also said this would not affect phone or plan prices or contracts. The only thing companies are trying to do is get rid of the outdated technology.
The easiest way to tell if your phone is already digital is if it has text and instant messaging, Internet browsing, MP3 players and a camera.
According to the FCC's Web site, people who have alarm systems in their homes or in their vehicles, such as OnStar, may have the toughest time with the transition, considering that a lot of alarm systems use analog radio equipment. These typically will include alarm systems installed before 2006.
Customers using systems similar should check with their carriers.