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Goodbye, Analog Cellphone

Kim Hart

The country's biggest wireless carriers, AT&T and Verizon, are planned to start shuting off their analog service yesterday. Most cellphone users stopped using analog service long ago, relying on digital networks to make calls, check email and send text messages. Maintaining both an analog and digital network became an expensive chore for operators.

Some analog loyalists, though, will undoubtedly mourn the loss of the technology that launched the wireless industry. After I wrote this story last month, I received a few concerned emails from people who have vacation homes in remote areas, or who travel through unpopulated regions, where digital networks don't always reach. They weren't happy that they may have to subscribe to more-expensive services to stay in touch.

Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile do not use analog networks. A few smaller regional carriers are planning to maintain analog signals for rural customers.

In an experiment, I just asked a friend to switch his Verizon phone to analog mode and make a call. It was a bit muffled by static, but the call went through fine. Verizon and AT&T told me last month that they would be shutting down their analog networks incrementally. Apparently, the Washington region is still up and running.

It also affects some home alarm systems and On-Star systems in some vehicles. Companies that rely on analog said they've been trying to contact customers that would be affected starting today. But I'm sure a number of people out there, notably people who only use their cellphones every once in a while, will be surprised the next time they power up their phones.

By Kim Hart  |  February 19, 2008; 1:17 PM ET  | Category:  Kim Hart
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