The Mobile Phone Revolution

Publication Date01 Jan 1987
The Mobile
Being able to conduct business anywhere, any time, seems
to be important to the business community, and the new
cellular technology has gone a long way towards making
it possible. It is predicted that, in four years time, there will
be approximately 500,000 mobile phone users in Great
using the two existing options of Racal-Vodaphone
and Cellnet.
VANS (values added network services), which are going to
create the office of the future in the front of every
businessman's car, are also constantly being developed. A
look at the current options for mobile communication are
really quite impressive.
Cellular Radio
Cellular radio works by dividing the service area into small
each with its own base station aerial. A central
computer switches telephone calls from one base station
aerial to another as a mobile unit moves through their cells.
The same frequencies can be used over and over again, as
long as areas transmitting the same frequencies do not
There are two companies that operate cellular systems in
the UK—Cellnet, which is jointly run by British Telecom,
Securicor and Racal-Vodafone. Each was allocated 300
radio channels in January 1985. The response to the service
was so large that Cellnet has recently introduced new
technology to enable it to double its capacity. This has
involved a narrowing of the cells or geographical areas which
are covered by each frequency. For example, within the M25
the Cellnet capacity has been raised from 35,000 to
60,000 subscribers.
Racal-Vodafone currently has 33,000 subscribers and states
that its present system, which is different from Cellnet's in
its cellular structure, still has plenty of room for expansion.
At the moment, the cellular systems are clustered around
the major commercial areas, motorway and trunk routes,
although both Cellnet and Racal-Vodafone are committed
to being completely nationwide services and have expanded
their coverage every month. It is, in fact, a Government
licence requirement that 90 per cent of the UK population
will be accessible to cellular mobile phones in 1990.
The big advantage of the cellular system is that it enables
subscribers to call ordinary telephone subscribers on the
public switched telephone network both here and
internationally—calls not just being restricted to other users
of the system.
While the cellular systems have the most sophisticated
technology and seems to fit most businessmen's require-
ments, there is an alternative in System 4, which is also
operated by British Telecom. Using 25-year-old technology
that has been upgraded constantly, it claims to have the best
coverage area of any radio network in the UK because the
system uses high-powered transmitters covering hundreds
of square miles.
The system is available nationally, across a series of zones-
Scotland, Midland, South, Wales, West, East and
national including London. A businessman can subscribe
to one or all of the zones. But, if he subscribes to just one,
he can only make calls from within that zone, albeit to
anywhere in the world on the public switchboard telephone
network. However, it is not possible to receive international
The cellular system companies
have rapidly developed extra
services for their subscribers
System 4 complements, rather than competes
cellular systems. It has 10,500 users, mainly drawn from
companies whose business operations are conducted within
a specific area from base and find operating within one
System 4 zone a cost-effective exercise.
Value Added Networks
The cellular system companies have rapidly developed extra
services for their subscribers, such as voice messaging,
radiopaging and payphones, and the experimental mobile
telephones installed in some London taxis. It is also planned
to have data-transmission services.
The way these systems link up with the mobile phones is
best demonstrated by BT's Radiopaging and Voicebank
services. Subscribers can, via their own personal Voicebank
number, ring up to leave a message (rather like an answering
machine) or retrieve messages. If a mailbox is linked to a
BT Radiopager, the subscriber is automatically bleeped the
minute that a message is left. The value of this is that a
businessman who has left his car for a meeting will be
alerted via the bleeper to the fact that a message has been
left on Voicebank and he can retrieve the message when
he gets back to his car. Racal's Messenger system is similar
but the company was only awarded a nationwide radiopaging

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