The PCS journal
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13th May 2005
12th May 2005
15th March 2005
rmahorney @ : Cellphones add TV, radio to repertoire
[This mostly involves expensive services that cell phone companies want to
sell. What I can't figure out is who would want to buy them. Adding a tv or
fm radio tuner to a cell phone to allow free OTA reception could be a
desirable feature. But spending an extra $15/month plus Pay Per View
charges to have radio or tv streamed to your phone makes no sense to me.]
Cellphones add TV, radio to repertoire
By Jefferson Graham
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[This mostly involves expensive services that cell phone companies want to
sell. What I can't figure out is who would want to buy them. Adding a tv or
fm radio tuner to a cell phone to allow free OTA reception could be a
desirable feature. But spending an extra $15/month plus Pay Per View
charges to have radio or tv streamed to your phone makes no sense to me.]
Cellphones add TV, radio to repertoire
By Jefferson Graham
<a href="http://www.usatoday.com/printedition/money/20050315/4b_phones_15.art.htm>"USA TODAY </a>
Coming soon to a cellphone near you: baseball games, music, TV shows and
shared digital pictures.
New phones in small packages that do a lot more than just let people talk
were unveiled Monday at the wireless industry's Cellular Telecommunications
and Internet Association (CTIA) trade show in New Orleans. Entertainment
companies are among those on hand to take advantage of the new possibilities.
.Major League Baseball cut a deal with MobiTV, a fledging provider of TV
clips for phones, to offer video coverage of games. No pricing was
announced. Audiocasts of games now cost $7.99 on top of MobiTV's monthly
Verizon Wireless is augmenting its "V Cast" TV clip feature with highlights
from Fox's Paris Hilton/Nicole Richie series The Simple Life. The clips
will sell for $1 each, on top of the monthly $15 subscription.
.America Online cut a deal with Cingular Wireless for its subscribers to
share digital photographs from AOL's AIM instant message program from PCs
to phones and vice versa.
.Phone manufacturers are showing off models with increased internal memory,
allowing for storage of pictures, music and video clips. The new LG VX-8100
phone has a built-in 1.3-megapixel camera (megapixels measure a camera's
resolution), 512 megabytes of internal flash memory and a memory card slot.
Most camera phones have memory in the 16 MB to 32 MB range. The phone is
expected to be in stores by next month.
"The phone is rapidly morphing into the everything device," says Scott
Ellison, an analyst with market tracker IDC. "The big three things here at
the show are music, watching TV on the phone and picture sharing."
Some 150 million camera phones were sold last year, according to IDC. But
most consumers do little with their images because the transfer process
hasn't been made easy for them.
Indeed, at the show, Kodak cited an internal survey saying as many as 68
billion photographs were taken on camera phones last year, but 70% of users
said they rarely were shared with friends.
AOL's wireless initiative is "a very clever way of driving people to start
sending pictures in a mobile context," Ellison says. "They're already
familiar and comfortable with AIM on the PC. This takes IM to the next level."
AOL has a big booth at the CTIA show and is showing off technology to put
its collection of more than 200 Internet radio stations onto phones.
"Download the application, and your cellphone is now a radio," says Himesh
Bhise, general manager of AOL's mobile division. He predicts AOL Radio will
be on phones by midyear.
rmahorney @ : Are camera phones losing their snap?
Are camera phones losing their snap?
By Ben Charny
Story last modified Mon Mar 14 09:36:00 PST 2005
NEW ORLEANS--Cell phones with embedded cameras will go from runaway hit to
small-time niche service if major problems remain unaddressed, Eastman
Kodak's chief executive told a major wireless show here on Monday.
"Today, camera phones are imaging-capable but photographically disabled,"
Kodak Chief Executive Dan Carp said during a keynote address at CTIA
Carp's remarks throw cold water on the cell phone industry's biggest
success story of the last two years. Camera phones are credited with the
surging use of wireless data services in the United States, with some
wireless operators saying their data revenues have doubled in the last two
years. Last year, 180 million camera phones were sold worldwide, a 130
percent increase over 2003. Most analysts believe the growth will continue,
with about 280 million camera phones sold by the end of the year, and there
may be one billion camera phones in circulation by year's end.
"Mobile imaging may be the biggest breakthrough since the Brownie camera
(one of Kodak's first cameras ever)," Carp said.
Yet on Monday, Carp said a Kodak market study found that most camera phone
owners find their devices less than satisfying, even though they used the
cameras to snap about 70 billion photos last year. Nearly two-thirds of
camera phone owners rarely, if ever, upload pictures to a computer. And 70
percent never (or rarely) send photos to other phones. Notoriously short
camera phone battery life; photo quality, especially in daylight; and the
complexity of printing pictures are causing major headaches for the 180
million camera phone owners worldwide, according to Carp.
"These are all warning signs," he said. "If we're not careful, imaging
could fade to niche application in phones. Some think its happening already."
The industry isn't ignoring the problems, say executives attending Monday's
keynote. Many wireless manufacturers and operators are trying to make
inroads to solve the problems, with Sprint and even America Online introducing
easier methods to share camera phone photos with friends, or print them.
Kodak is now working to let cell phones use the EasyShare printer for
digital cameras, which eliminates the need to upload digital photos first
onto a personal computer.
Camera phones represent a crossroads for the cell phone industry. Embedding
cameras into cell phones has helped U.S. consumers realize that their
phones can also access the Internet, whether to post camera phone photos on
a public Web site, watch a specially formatted TV show, send a photo to a
friend's handset or use any number of offline printing services. As a
result, wireless operators are much more interested, and willing, to give
new kinds of data services a try.
This scenario is being played out by U.S. wireless operators, which are now
using the success of camera phone sales to introduce the logical next step:
One of the most hyped is V-Cast from Verizon Wireless, which launched on
Feb. 1. On Monday, Verizon Wireless beefed up its lineup of TV shows
Verizon Wireless subscribers can view on their phones. One new addition is
specially made versions of "The Simple Life: Interns," a reality show that
follows the exploits of socialites Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie.
"We are pleased with the success of VCast," Verizon Wireless Chief
Executive Denny Strigl said.
Carp, however, called cell phone video a mistake, saying "shifting
attention to video could result in lost opportunity for all of us."
14th February 2005
rmahorney @ : Cell phones: a confusing regulation process
The static of high-tech life
Cell phones come with a price - a confusing regulation process
By Deb Kollars
Sacramento [CA] Bee Staff Writer
Published 2:15 am PST Sunday, February 13, 2005
In the space of just a few years, cellular telephones have shifted from
being a luxury to a routine necessity in many people's lives - as vital as
electricity or running water, as much a part of the monthly bill-paying
rhythm as groceries and garbage pickup.
But when there's a problem, good luck trying to appeal to a higher authority.
When it comes to the regulation of cell phones, consumers dwell in a
confusing Neverland, a place where state lawmakers point to the Public
Utilities Commission, and the PUC points to the Federal Communications
Commission in Washington D.C., and the FCC points back to the states.
Darting among the many pass-the-buck layers are the wireless companies,
which aggressively fight any and all government attempts to rein in their
industry. They believe competition and consumer choice in the marketplace
should be the regulator.
"For the consumer, there is no recourse. That's why we call it Cell Hell,"
said Janee Briesemeister, senior policy analyst for Consumers Union, the
nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, which is running the national
campaign "Escape Cell Hell."
To those in the business, it is a strange description, given the wireless
industry's phenomenal growth and popularity among people young and old.
Joe Farren, director of public affairs for CTIA, a wireless trade group in
Washington D.C., pointed out that the country now has 175 million wireless
subscribers, up from just 13 million in 1993. Most everywhere you go, he
and other wireless officials noted, you find people chatting on their cell
And now, with phones that can take pictures, deal poker hands and deliver
e-mail, the popularity just keeps rising.
"We don't agree there is massive customer dissatisfaction," Farren said.
"Just look at the number of subscribers."
In one sense, Farren is correct. People do love their cell phones. They are
handy. They can be fun. They let us do good things: conduct business,
report emergencies, reach those who are far away.
Dayna Kimball, who lives in Elk Grove, could be a voice for much of America
on this point: "If I tried to put my cell phone in a drawer and do without
it, I'd freak," she said last week. "I got hooked five years ago and I
could not exist without my cell phone."
And yet, listen to Kimball as she describes her frustration with her
cellular company, with which she has tangled over billing errors, broken
phones and even calls arriving on a stranger's cell phone:
"Oh my gosh! You don't even know!" she said. "I have dropped calls at least
six times a day. Most of the time I cannot talk on my cell phone at my
home. I have to go park up the street."
The litany of wireless complaints is as long as a cellular phone bill:
Dropped calls and bad connections. Unexpected fees. Confusing roaming
charges described in tiny print. Long waits on customer service lines.
Two-year contracts with huge cancellation fees. Phones that buzz, or break,
or in Kimball's experience, start smoking when plugged into a recharger.
In California and across the nation, people are calling for relief.
In recent years, wireless complaints to the California Public Utilities
Commission have risen steadily, according to Karen Dowd, manager of the
consumer affairs branch in San Francisco. Last year, the PUC received 9,017
calls or letters from unhappy cellular customers, up from 6,190 the year
Nationally, the Better Business Bureau announced last year that wireless
companies had generated 18,323 complaints the year before - second only to
In its annual cell phone survey, Consumer Reports in January reported
wireless consumer satisfaction remained lower than for nearly all other
services it rated.
Even the elderly, one of the last groups to embrace cell phone technology,
are fed up: AARP, the powerful lobbying group that represents older
Americans, recently launched a campaign for greater wireless oversight.
For AARP and other consumer groups, seeking cell relief from the government
has been a frustrating experience, not unlike the one many individuals face
when dialing the customer help number on their bills: It's hard to get
someone to answer, much less provide the assistance they need.
Part of the reason is the bifurcated way government has divvied up the
world of wireless.
The FCC has control over the airwaves used by cell companies, and through
Congress has been given jurisdiction over rates and market entry issues.
But the FCC has been hands-off with cellular pricing - preferring a
free-market approach where competition and consumer choice drive prices,
said Israel Balderas, an FCC spokesman.
"We really believe in a market-oriented approach," he said, pointing to the
FCC's decision to allow number portability - which took effect last year
despite industry objections - as a classic example of the philosophy.
"We said once the consumers owned their own numbers, they could walk with
their feet," Balderas said.
Congress has left all other "terms and conditions" issues, such as the
quality of customer service or cancellation fees, to the states. This,
Balderas noted, fits with the states' traditional role in regulating
In California, lawmakers have left wireless oversight to the Public
Utilities Commission, which regulates utilities such as phone and natural
"The PUC has the technical expertise, and it is easier to pass a regulation
than a law," explained Sen. Debra Bowen, D-Marina del Rey and former
chairwoman of the Senate committee on energy, utilities and communications.
It also may be easier to sideline a regulation at the PUC, consumers
Last May, the PUC passed the nation's first "Consumer Bill of Rights"
regulating the wireless industry. It would have required, among other
things, that consumers be given 30 days to cancel a cell plan from the date
of signing up. This was viewed as a victory for consumers, who often had
only two weeks.
Wireless firms complied with some of the new requirements, but complained
that others were untenable. One of their central arguments: That they are
nationwide companies, with national plans and billing systems, and should
not be held to varying standards in various states.
Last month, the PUC, which had a turnover in appointed members, put the
Consumer Bill of Rights on indefinite hold.
Wireless companies, politicians and individuals who favor the market-based
approach were pleased. Consumer advocates were furious. Bowen said she and
other elected leaders now are considering legislation to regulate wireless
firms in California.
In the meantime, if you are a consumer with a cellular complaint, you can
file it with the PUC and a staffer will try to mediate on your behalf with
the company in question. The process brings many positive resolutions, Dowd
said, but only for the complaints that get attention; the PUC has a backlog
of 17,000 complaints among all the utilities it oversees.
Generally, the PUC directs consumers to the FCC, she said.
"We let consumers know we don't have the teeth," Dowd said. "The FCC is
really the regulatory body for wireless complaints."
Yet filing with the FCC is mostly a futile exercise. The FCC logs
complaints and compiles periodic reports, reviewing them for egregious
cases that may, in rare instances, merit federal intervention. But the
agency does not help consumers resolve problems, nor forward the complaints
to the companies, Balderas said.
According to wireless representatives, the fuss over regulation is
unnecessary. Companies are working hard to fill dead zones with service,
create rate plans that offer more minutes and options, and strengthen
customer service, Farren said.
In 2004 alone, he said, wireless carriers invested $20 billion to improve
their networks nationwide. Verizon Wireless and Sprint Corp., the nation's
second-and third-largest carriers, respectively, recently reduced their
fees related to portability, charges that had irked many consumers.
Farren also pointed out that a recent J.D. Power and Associates study found
overall satisfaction with wireless providers improved 5 percent in 2003,
the first time a notable increase had turned up in three years.
Representatives from major carriers were eager to describe the network and
service improvements they are making.
Cingular, the nation's largest carrier since merging with AT&T Wireless,
switched to a 30-day trial period in November, and also began providing
customers detailed "sample bills" at the time they contract for service,
said Anne Marshall, Cingular's director of public relations.
"We want customers to be happy," Marshall said.
Likewise, Verizon began a 30-day cancellation option in California in
December, among other recent consumer improvements, Verizon spokeswoman
Barbara Curl said.
According to Paul Levinson, professor and chair of the Department of
Communication and Media Studies at Fordham University in New York, the
collective love-hate experience surrounding cell phones is part of a
profound pattern of change in our lives.
"We have a very powerful relationship with new technologies," said
Levinson, who last year published "Cell Phone: The Story of the World's
Most Mobile Medium and How It Has Transformed Everything."
"First, we are amazed by the miracle of it all," he said. "Then we find the
delivery less than perfect and grow frustrated. The issues are so deep, I
don't think any government agency can fix it."
If the issues seem tough now, people should hold tight to their flip
phones. The FCC soon will be wrestling with a new wireless war: whether to
allow cell phone use on airplanes now that new technologies have left in
question the necessity of the in-air ban for safety reasons.
21st January 2005
rmahorney @ : Cell Tower Case Beamed to High Court
Cell Tower Case Beamed to High Court
The justices will decide whether cities must pay damages for blocking
expansion of wireless phone networks.
By David G. Savage
LA Times Staff Writer
January 20, 2005
WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court debated the nuisance of cellphones Wednesday
- not their irritating habit of ringing at the wrong time, but rather the
need for tens of thousands of towers to transmit their signals.
In the last decade, 140,000 cell towers have sprouted up around the nation,
the cellphone industry says, and more are needed to eliminate "dead spots."
But in many cities, officials contend the towers are unsightly. And, on
occasion, officials have blocked wireless phone companies from erecting
On Wednesday, the high court took up a case from Rancho Palos Verdes to
decide whether cities can be sued in federal court and forced to pay
damages if they stand in the way of creating a wireless phone network.
The outcome of the legal battle could affect communities across the nation.
The court's decision would give either city officials or wireless companies
the upper hand in disputes over the building and location of towers.
The National League of Cities and the League of California Cities - as well
as lawyers for Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco - were among those
who urged the justices to block damage suits.
They said they feared cities could face millions of dollars in damages if
they refused a company's bid to build a cell tower. Moreover, the potential
for a crippling verdict could force city officials to automatically approve
requests for new cellphone towers, they said.
However, lawyers for the cellphone industry told the court that Congress'
goal of creating a national cellphone network could not be achieved if
local officials could use their zoning power to block new towers.
Last year, the cellphone industry won an important victory in the U.S. 9th
Circuit Court of Appeals. It ruled that under long-standing principles of
civil rights law, persons are free to sue for damages if the government
violates their rights. And the Telecommunications Act of 1996 gave
providers of wireless phone service a right to build their networks, the
appeals court said.
The California case did not involve a cellphone company. Instead, the 2004
appellate ruling cleared the way for amateur radio operator Mark Abrams to
sue the city for denying him permission to broadcast from a 50-foot radio
tower in his yard.
The Supreme Court took up the case, City of Rancho Palos Verdes vs. Abrams,
to decide the larger question of whether federal law authorizes damage
suits against cities over the building of cellphone towers.
During the argument, most of the justices indicated they were inclined to
overturn the 9th Circuit and rule for the cities.
Washington lawyer Seth P. Waxman, the U.S. solicitor general in the Clinton
administration, represented the amateur radio operator and the cellphone
companies; he argued that Congress wanted to give these companies more
clout to battle local officials.
"Entrenched zoning authorities were frustrating the creation of a national
wireless network," he said, and lawmakers envisioned damage suits against
zoning authorities who were unreasonable in blocking new towers.
But several justices said this notion seemed far-fetched.
"I cannot imagine Congress wanted to impose damages and attorney's fees on
municipalities for one mistake," Justice Antonin Scalia said. "That is
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said he had the same concern. "You are arguing
that even the smallest municipality can be held liable for hundreds of
thousand of dollars in damages," he said.
The lawyer who defended Rancho Palos Verdes said wireless phone companies
could challenge the zoning board's decision in court, but they should not
be able to sue for damages and legal fees.
"Very few municipalities could afford to enforce their own zoning laws" if
they were subject later to suits for damages, attorney Jeffrey A. Lamken
A Bush administration lawyer joined the case on the city's side, arguing
that Congress did not intend to authorize money suits over these zoning
None of the justices spoke up to take the side of those arguing for
Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, ailing with thyroid cancer, was absent
Wednesday and has not appeared in court since mid-October.
However, court officials said he planned to give administer the oath of
office to President Bush today.
18th January 2005
rmahorney @ : Telus rolls out Instant Talk
Telus rolls out Instant Talk
Phone service like a walkie-talkie
Bell expected to follow in March
Telus Mobility is getting pushy with its wireless rivals.
The mobile phone unit of Telus Corp. launched the country's first consumer push-to-talk service
yesterday, called Instant Talk, which essentially turns
a mobile phone into a long-range walkie-talkie.
But the service, available Monday, is more like a walkie-talkie on steroids. Press one button and a
user can instantly connect to another user or group
of users anywhere between Vancouver and Halifax.
Telus hopes to extend to the consumer market the kind of success it has had with Mike, the business
push-to-talk service it has operated since 1996. Mike
works over a separate wireless network based on Motorola Inc.'s iDen technology.
Analysts said Telus's move was largely defensive because Bell Mobility is expected to unveil its own
push-to-talk service in March after earlier promises
of a 2004 launch.
Telus has had a product ready for more than a year, and while its original intent was to wait for
Bell, it decided that the best defence was a good offence.
"One of our competitors is going to launch a push-to-talk product, so we wanted to maintain our
leadership position," said George Cope, president and chief
executive officer of Telus Mobility.
North American mobile phone providers see push-to-talk as another way to boost the monthly spending
of wireless customers.
The Telus plan costs $10 more each month for subscribers paying $40 or more on an existing phone
plan. It's $20 more a month if the $40 threshold isn't
No long-distance charges apply in Canada, though a U.S. roaming fee of 20 cents a minute does apply.
Users must buy a $229 Kyocera phone ($79.99 on a three-year contract) to use the service, or wait
until a Motorola flip-phone is released later this winter.
Michael Neuman, CEO of Bell Mobility, said as far back as September 2003 that Bell would enter the
push-to-talk market in 2004 to wrestle market share away
from the unchallenged Mike service. Mike has helped Telus Mobility achieve the highest monthly
revenues per customer in the industry.
"Bell can confirm our continued interest in entering the PTT (push-to-talk) market in early 2005,"
Bell Mobility told the Toronto Star in a statement.
A spokesperson for the Rogers Wireless said there are no developments to discuss, but the company is
watching the push-to-talk market closely.
One industry source said it's unclear whether Canadians will pay for such a service. "I don't see a
need for another way to communicate," said the source,
citing the existence of wireless text messaging, email, voice and instant messaging.
Dvai Ghose, an analyst with CIBC World Markets, said a likely focus will be the youth market, which
has not yet been tapped by Telus's Mike service.
"If you're going after the traditional blue-collar worker, you're wasting your time," said Ghose,
adding that push-to-talk, like text messaging, could prove
to be a popular way for kids to interact with each other and their parents.
Mobile phone companies in Canada are watching developments south of the border, where major wireless
carriers, specifically Verizon Wireless and Sprint
PCS, have spent the past year challenging the dominance of Nextel Communications Inc. in the
Nextel uses the same iDen technology as Telus does with its Mike service.
Sprint PCS's planned mega-merger with Nextel could shake up the market. As part of that merger, the
companies plan by 2006 to make it possible for Nextel
and Sprint PCS push-to-talk users to communicate with each other. This would require Nextel's iDen
technology to inter-operate with Sprint's CDMA network.
Telus, which operates both an iDen and CDMA network, has a strong relationship with Nextel and could
benefit from its work with Sprint PCS.
"What's going to be interesting is two to three years down the road when you have this kind of
hybrid product," said Ghose.
For now, Telus is making it clear that Instant Talk is a "lighter version" of Mike, or as one
analyst put it, "Mike Lite."
It takes four to six seconds for a connection to be made through Instant Talk, while Mike connects
users in less than a second, making it more reliable
for business purposes.
Ray T. Mahorney
Do your part for the environment, Drive an SUV!
rmahorney @ : Cell-Phone Shushing Gets Creative
Cell-Phone Shushing Gets Creative
02:00 AM Jan. 18, 2005 PT
We encounter them everywhere -- on the bus, on the street, in restaurants -- always talking to an
invisible companion. They're people gabbing on cell phones,
and they can be obnoxious.
According to U.S. census data, between 1993 and 2003 the number of cell-phone subscribers in the
United States grew more than 300 percent, from 34 million
to 159 million, so maybe it's no surprise that associated gripes have risen as well.
Across the country, the cell phone is on its way to becoming a pervasive and unremarkable medium,
said Mizuko Ito, an anthropologist at the University of
Southern California and Japan's Keio University who studies technology and issues pertaining to
children and new media.
Ito studies cell-phone culture primarily in Japan, where she said some issues related to courteous
use have been worked out. But here in the United States
she gets the sense that "it's still a thing that people are trying to work through," she said.
"Once you have people from all demographics using the phone and social norms hopefully stabilizing a
little bit, my guess is these type of concerns will
start to die down or at least be something that's not a topic of widespread concern," she said.
But in the meantime, how does one stop such foes, who seem oblivious to the fact that they're
annoying those around them? And how to avoid becoming one
of them? Some folks have taken creative and sometimes drastic measures to answer these questions.
It's a familiar issue: You're stuck somewhere with a nearby stranger yapping on a cell phone, but
you're unwilling to say anything about it. In December,
designers Jim Coudal of Chicago's
and Aaron Draplin of Portland, Oregon-based
drafted a solution that's been gaining buzz across the blogosphere.
Following an idea initiated by Coudal's wife, Heidi, Coudal and Draplin put together a series of
free, downloadable cards, with messages like, "Just so
you know: Everyone around you is being forced to listen to yer conversation" and "The world is a
noisy place. You aren't helping things." Cards are attributed
to the Society for HandHeld Hushing, or SHHH.
At last check, the
pdf) had been downloaded a quarter of a million times, Coudal said, though he doesn't know of
anybody who has actually passed out the cards. He has, however,
had requests to translate them into French and Japanese, and somebody translated them into Finnish,
"It's one of those things that happened to strike a chord with people," he said.
If downloaders are going to use the cards, Coudal suggests handing one out and then leaving the
"We don't really want to be responsible for a confrontation in the shoe department of Nordstrom's or
anything," he said.
In many cities around the country, restaurants are taking a passive -- but more expensive --
approach to curbing public cell-phone use by installing special
cell-phone booths either inside or outside their establishments. In New York City, Chelsea's
Biltmore Room boasts the city's first such booth, which general
manager Kris Furniss said was installed when the restaurant opened more than a year ago. Located
next to the bar on the former site of a dumbwaiter, the
booth is soundproof and leather-lined.
Currently, about 30 to 40 people use it per night, Furniss said. Often, they'll pick up a ringing
phone and then move into the booth. It reminds people
not to talk around others, he said, and Furniss thinks within the next five to 10 years more such
booths will pop up in businesses and public areas.
Just outside Atlanta, the Brooklyn Cafe also has a cell-phone booth. It's a red, 1,700-pound English
antique, which manager Chad League said several people
use each day.
"People talk about it all the time. They think it's a great idea," he said.
The booth is a way to combat the fact that people seem unable to go anywhere without their phones,
he said, and "it's definitely creative in that you're
not just telling someone they can't use their cell phones."
One elderly Minnesota man tried to do just that, however. Bill Stevenson, 79, got in a physical
tangle with a man at a St. Paul bagel restaurant in summer
He was fed up with a man shouting obscenities to someone on his cell phone, he said. Stevenson said
his friend asked the man to take his phone outside,
but the man wouldn't comply.
Stevenson said he then approached the man from behind and tried to take the phone away. A tug of war
ensued, and eventually the man and phone went flying.
Stevenson ended up with three months of probation and a $50 fine.
He didn't use good judgment in grabbing the man's phone, Stevenson said, but he has received a lot
of support for his action. A local radio station paid
his fine, and he's gotten positive calls and letters.
But despite the support for attempts to rein in annoying cell-phone use, Ito, the anthropologist,
thinks things may get worse before they get better.
She has a simple suggestion for those who want to avoid becoming the object of others' ire: Start
sending text messages.
"I think if people really are concerned about the prevalence of voice, they should start adopting
text as an alternative to it. Because it's a critical-mass
issue -- enough people have to start using it that it becomes an alternative to voice," she said.
Ray T. Mahorney
Do your part for the environment, Drive an SUV!
13th January 2005
rmahorney @ : A New Crop of Handsets, Ready for What's Out There
A New Crop of Handsets, Ready for What's Out There
January 13, 2005
By SETH SCHIESEL
AS wireless carriers introduce new services like television
and streaming music, cellphone manufacturers are coming out
with the handsets needed to use them. The devices generally
have larger, higher-quality color screens, cameras capable
of taking higher-resolution still pictures and video clips,
and better sound reproduction.
Carriers are selling most of these handsets for a few
hundred dollars after rebates, contingent on the user
signing up for a one- or two-year service agreement.
But how well do they work? To find out, two Manhattanites,
Phil Potter and Joy Huibonhoa, agreed to put a few of the
new units through an informal evaluation.
Ms. Huibonhoa started off by working her way through the
operating manual for the Sony Ericsson Z500a from Cingular.
The farther she got with the Z500a, the less happy she
became. "The overall ease of use is generally good, but it
feels a bit clunky," she said. "The buttons aren't
finger-friendly and the Internet seems a bit hard to
maneuver and it's slow."
Mr. Potter, who ignored the instructions ("If I need the
manual, then it's poorly designed," he said), agreed that
the Z500a was not stylish and that the unit's sound and
color seemed washed out. He liked the phone's music
capability and contact manager.
The new LG VX8000, offered by Verizon Wireless, impressed
the two. "This is sexy," Ms. Huibonhoa said, holding up the
big screen. "Look at this bright screen. And the sound
quality is great."
She said she enjoyed the speed of the Internet connection
and found it easy to use. While a little disappointed that
the much-hyped video clips took about 20 seconds to buffer,
she and Mr. Potter were impressed with the unit's video
quality. "Frankly, this is a lot better than I expected,"
The sleeper hit of the session was Sanyo's MM-7400 from
Sprint, which inspired a higher level of enthusiasm from
the testers than any of the other units.
"This is very user-friendly," Ms. Huibonhoa said of the
Sanyo. "It's got a clear bright screen, the maneuverability
is good and I don't have to press so hard on the buttons."
Mr. Potter liked the unit's multimedia capabilities, which
include showing television channels (through a service
called MobiTV, which has a relatively slow frame rate) and
video clips, and streaming music from Music Choice, which
provides a similar service over many cable and satellite TV
"It's a phone. No, it's a TV. No, wait, it's a radio!" Mr.
In all, the two were pleased with the overall selection,
but there was one puzzler: the testers noticed that for
some reason almost every phone had preloaded or had the
ability to download the song "Brass Monkey" by the Beastie
Boys. "I don't know what it is about that song," Mr. Potter
said. "But I guess the wireless guys like it."
11th January 2005
rmahorney @ : Sprint offers wireless software upgrades
Sprint offers wireless software upgrades
By Staff Writers 7 January 2005 09:45 AEST
An emerging need for frequent software upgrades for mobile phones is being addressed by US
telecommunications provider Sprint, which said it was starting
to offer software upgrades over its wireless network.
Sprint said a service, dubbed Sprint PCS Wireless Software Upgrade, was being offered on seven
handsets and could save customers a trip to Sprint stores.
The firm said it was the first US mobile-phone provider to offer a wireless software-upgrade
"With advanced megapixel cameras, camcorders, and downloadable content, the embedded operating
software on wireless devices is becoming more complex and
may occasionally require an update," said Sprint senior vice president John Garcia in a statement.
"With Sprint PCS Wireless Software Upgrade, customers can conveniently get those upgrades directly
on their phone without visiting a retail store or calling
Sprint credited South Korean handset manufacturer Samsung with recognising the benefit of wireless
Sprint said five Samsung phones were enabled for the upgrade service, as well as one phone from LG
and one from Sanyo.
Sprint said it had earmarked US$3 billion to deploy high speed EV-DO data service -- a measure that
could eventually require subscribers to frequently update
their phones with new software releases.
Sprint also recently announced its intention to merge with Nextel Communications, with Sprint to
become the surviving corporate entity.
Copyright (c) 2004 CMP Media LLC
Ray T. Mahorney
10th January 2005
rmahorney @ : Open Letter to Sprint PCS
January 09, 2005
Open Letter to Sprint PCS
By Mitch Ratcliffe
In the run-up to 2005, I was working on a Look Ahead story explaining that despite their increasing
consolidation, telecommunications companies are heading
for a fall, again. Their heft will prevent them from responding to the rapid changes in the market.
I did not have a concrete example to hang the story
on, so I let it go. Then, I destroyed my mobile phone in a bizarre ink-related mishap and got the
anecdote I needed.
With that background, here’s my open letter to Gary Forsee, chairman and CEO of Sprint:
Gary D. Forsee
Chairman and CEO,
Re: Push the edges
I have been a Sprint PCS business customer for several years, but I’ve had
a customer service experience
that has me questioning whether Sprint is capable of competing effectively as new technology arms
emerging competitors. The details of my recent interaction
with Sprint employees are
so I will summarize:
Your Sprint Store employees are not empowered to do anything for customers besides sign them up for
service, when they should be the front line of a robust
customer service interface.
Your Sprint Customer Care centers appear to have a great deal of disdain for Sprint Store staff; I
was told during a call with Customer Care that Sprint
Store sales associates are “not qualified to help business customers.” This despite the fact that I
opened my business account in a Sprint Store and the
fact that Sprint Store customer agreements are written to cover both personal and business
Sprint Customer Care blamed me for misreading your incomprehensible bills, even after Sprint Store
staff could not explain the bill to me. My bill, for
four numbers, is typically 17 to 20 pages long. It does not summarize charges effectively and a
thorough check of it could take an hour per month, which
is more time than I have. Nevertheless, Sprint Customer Care told me “It’s up to you to check your
bill. We have millions of customers and can’t be responsible
Sir, your company is responsible for its billing accuracy and the promises made in your stores and
by telephone support personnel. It was my experience
that Customer Care believes otherwise.
Let me emphasize that the store personnel were excellent throughout this process, but they were
unable to make decisions or deviate from policy.
The phrase repeated to me by store staff was “I can’t do anything at my level.” That is a red flag
that Sprint is in trouble. It reminded me starkly of
the days before 1984 when going to AT&T to get a phone involved standing in line to hear that I had
When I asked for something as simple as having my calls forwarded from a number that was
inaccessible due to equipment failure, store and technical support
personnel were stumped. It took more than 75 minutes to reach someone in network operations and set
the number to forward.
Contrast that with my ability to set complex network functions on
s network, such as simultaneous ringing for two numbers, and Sprint’s ability to compete in an
environment where the customer is empowered is very questionable.
services, especially when they are augmented by widely accessible wife networks or raw
and other data services, are going to eat your voice minutes for lunch.
Voice service is just one more function for the modern network. Since all these services are
complex, large telecom companies do enjoy a temporary advantage
in providing support and services that make the wireless experience a convenient and enjoyable one.
Once VoIP competitors start to build real support networks,
big telecoms’ opportunity will be lost.
My experience with your customer services convinced me your company still operates on the assumption
that its ownership of the network is more important
than the flexibility of that network in the hands of customers. The center cannot hold in a
controlled from the edges, which is exactly where all wireless networks are headed in the same
tracks wired telecom networks traveled on in the 1990s.
Adding to the assets at the center through
acquisitions like that of Nextel
will only increase the likelihood of a catastrophic loss of customers who find the power they want
from other service providers.
You must make your network more accessible for customers and recognize that if your Sprint Store
employees aren’t empowered your customers certainly will
When the edges of the network are the key to competitiveness, the interaction with customers is the
crucial link. I didn’t cancel my four lines of service
this time because, for now, Sprint’s service is still less expensive than other carriers that offer
similarly inflexible services. Once I have the ability
to move my numbers quickly and carry an IP-capable wireless voice device that gives me total control
of the network, I’ll be ready to pay more for that
service than I do to Sprint today.
Posted by Red Herring at January 9, 2005 11:25 PM |
Ray T. Mahorney
6th January 2005
rmahorney @ : Wireless Industry Agrees to Study Standard to Boost Network Speed
Wireless Industry Agrees to Study Standard to Boost Network Speed
By JESSE DRUCKER
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
January 5, 2005; Page B6
Some 26 wireless carriers and telecommunications-equipment makers have
agreed to study the development of advanced wireless technology to greatly
increase the speeds offered by wireless networks.
Cingular Wireless, Vodafone Group PLC, Qualcomm Inc., Lucent Technologies
Inc. and Motorola Inc. are among the companies taking part in the effort.
Third-generation, or 3G, cellular networks can relay information at speeds
far faster than dial-up Internet connections, and even sometimes are
comparable with wired digital subscriber lines. Services generally using
one of two technologies -- either UMTS or EV-DO -- increasingly are being
deployed across Asia, Europe and now the U.S. Both standards are based on
the CDMA technology developed by Qualcomm.
But at a workshop held in Athens, Greece last month by an organization
called 3GPP -- an association of standards bodies and industry groups --
more than two dozen companies supported an effort to study the feasibility
of new standards that would accommodate even faster speeds.
The group called for a study to be completed by mid-2006 and for
development of specifications by mid-2007. If that happens, Paul Reid,
third-generation marketing officer for the European Telecommunications
Standards Institute, said he expected that products using such a faster
standard could be available by 2009. The group declined, however, to commit
to developing a specific standard.
The companies will attempt to achieve speeds of 100 megabits per second on
The group also called for more technology to make efficient use of
spectrum, because the use of higher-bandwidth applications tends to use a
lot of scarce radio-wave spectrum. "All we're talking about is one more
step along that path," Mr. Reid said. "It's much more a case of evolution."
Already, Verizon Wireless is offering its EV-DO service in more than a
dozen cities and plans to have it cover half the country's population by
the end of this year. Cingular, the biggest cellphone carrier in the U.S.,
recently announced it would roll out its 3G offerings -- using UMTS -- to
the country's 100 biggest cities by the end of 2006. Cingular is owned by
BellSouth Corp. and SBC Communications Inc.
"Technology is never done," said Kris Rinne, chief technology officer for
Cingular Wireless. "It is constantly evolving to assure we have a
go-forward solution for additional customer needs that might evolve over time."
rmahorney @ : Consumers: Cell phone service still stinks
Consumers: Cell phone service still stinks
Story last modified Tue Jan 04 17:02:00 PST 2005
More than half of U.S. consumers are less than satisfied with their mobile
telephone service and give the lowest ratings to providers involved in
large mergers, according to a Consumer Reports survey.
Poor call quality, difficulty comparing service plans and less-than-helpful
customer service were problems cited in a survey from the magazine's
September survey of 39,000 people in 17 major cities.
The survey results, largely unchanged from a similar study a year earlier,
will be published along with a separate look at the merits and drawbacks of
Internet-based telephone services in Consumer Reports' February issue.
Verizon Wireless left customers in 17 cities feeling most satisfied and
T-Mobile USA, owned by Deutsche Telekom AG, had the second best review from
responses in 12 cities, according to the study released on Tuesday.
Nextel Communications, which is being bought by Sprint, was ranked last due
to network coverage limitations, according to Consumer Reports. But it said
it only counted the company in its results for four U.S. cities because few
customers responded elsewhere.
Sprint's ratings from 17 cities came in at the middle of the pack while
Cingular Wireless, which is still integrating AT&T Wireless after their
combination in October, was ranked second to last according to results from
Almost 70 percent of frequent mobile users had at least one dropped call in
the week before the survey, and about 60 percent reported a call with poor
About 35 percent of people were seriously considering switching to a
rival mobile phone service, but roughly half had difficulty comparing
services and deciphering service costs.
In another report, Consumer Reports said people who spend more than $60 a
month for local and long-distance telephone services should consider
Internet telephone services.
These voice over Internet Protocol--or VoIP--services are cheaper because
they transmit calls in the same way Web pages are sent over the Internet
compared with traditional phone calls, which require a dedicated circuits.
But the magazine warned that Internet telephony falls short of traditional
services and recommended keeping a basic land line for emergencies. Its
testers reported trouble with sound quality, incoming calls and setup
support. It tried services from companies including Vonage, AT&T Verizon
Communications, the cable arm of Time Warner Inc and Cablevision Systems Corp.
31st December 2004
rmahorney @ : Time Warner and Sprint in Wireless Talks
Time Warner and Sprint in Wireless Talks
By DAVID TWIDDY
The Associated Press
Wednesday, December 29, 2004; 3:32 PM
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Sprint Corp. and Time Warner Cable are discussing a
deal that would allow the cable provider to offer cell phone service, the
companies said Wednesday.
Such a deal would make the unit of Time Warner Inc. the only major cable
company to offer the so-called "quadruple play" -- television, high-speed
Internet access and both wired and wireless phone service.
It would also be the latest in a series of partnerships for Sprint in which
other companies introduce their own brand of cell service using Sprint's
network. These include deals with AT&T Corp., the ESPN unit of Walt Disney
Co., Virgin Mobile USA LLC, and Qwest Communications International Inc.
While representatives of both companies confirmed that talks are underway,
they wouldn't say if a deal was imminent, as was reported Wednesday by The
Wall Street Journal. The paper said the new service would be limited to
Kansas City market and become available in the first quarter of 2005.
Sprint and Time Warner, the nation's second-largest cable company with 11
million subscribers, announced a partnership a year ago that allowed Time
Warner to offer standard phone service over Sprint's landline network using
Internet technology. Time Warner is also working with MCI Corp. on Internet
telephone service and has signed up 200,000 voice customers in its 31
markets, said Time Warner spokesman Keith Cocozza.
Since then, Sprint has announced a number of similar deals with other cable
companies, such as Mediacom Communications Inc. and USA Companies.
Sprint spokesman Jeff Shafer said the Overland Park, Kan.-based company is
in talks with all of its cable partners to eventually resell Sprint
wireless service as part of a package deals to subscribers.
"Our relationship with the cable companies is as much about offering the
quadruple play as it is offering (Internet phone service)," Shafer said.
"This is all about offering a compelling bundle to the consumer."
Cable companies are in a bitter fight with traditional phone carriers, such
as SBC Communications Inc., BellSouth Corp. and Verizon Communications
Inc., as both are trying to offer the full range of television programming,
high-speed Internet, standard voice services and wireless.
The strategy is based on the assumption a customer receiving a wide range
of services from a single company is less likely to jump ship to another
A consortium of cable companies, including Time Warner, are studying how to
break into the wireless business, either by building their own network,
buying up a wireless provider or teaming up with a company like Sprint to
resell the service.
Sprint is the nation's third-largest cellular provider with about 23
million subscribers. Earlier this month, Sprint and Nextel Communications
Inc. said they will combine in a $35 billion deal that would create a
company with 38 million wireless subscribers.
rmahorney @ : Coming in '05: AT&T Mobile (Via Sprint)
December 30, 2004
Coming in '05: AT&T Mobile (Via Sprint)
By KEN BELSON
AT&T is expected to announce as soon as next week details about how it
plans to offer mobile phone service using Sprint's cellular network,
according to executives close to the companies.
Sprint, which said earlier this year that it would work with AT&T to offer
cellphone service to AT&T's business customers, is fast solidifying its
position as the top reseller of telecommunications services. Because it is
not affiliated with the regional Bell companies, it has been able to build
a strong business as a wholesaler of network capacity to the Bells' rivals.
AT&T plans to start marketing Sprint's cellphone service as its own in the
first half of 2005, after it wins back the rights to use the AT&T Wireless
brand from Cingular Wireless, which acquired AT&T Wireless in October. Some
of the particulars of how it will handle billing and operations for the new
mobile service will be spelled out next week, the executives said. AT&T is
not expected to announce pricing for its plans yet.
Buying services from Sprint is a natural choice for AT&T and other
companies needing to expand into cellular or fixed-line phone service, but
not wanting to invest in building a new network. Sprint has an abundance of
wireless spectrum space to sell and a national fiber-optic network that can
carry Internet-based phone calls and data.
Sprint already provides cellphone service to 2.8 million customers through
wholesale agreements with Virgin Mobile, Qwest Communications and other
carriers. The agreements generate more than $400 million in revenue a year
for Sprint, according to its chief operating officer, Len J. Lauer.
The company has also formed strong alliances with the cable industry.
Sprint helps Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications and Mediacom
Communications provide Internet phone services. And it is now in detailed
discussions with Time Warner Cable to provide cellphone services to Time
Warner's 11 million cable customers.
A Time Warner Cable spokesman, Keith Cocozza, said his company had not
decided when it intended to introduce a wireless service or which markets
would receive the service first.
The resale agreements allow Sprint, the third-largest mobile carrier, to
generate revenue without spending millions of dollars in marketing to
attract new subscribers.
"It lets us use our assets wisely," said Gary D. Forsee, Sprint's chief
executive. "The way we're trying to distinguish ourselves is to get access
to customers that our own retail brand might not."
For instance, one of Sprint's larger customers, Virgin Mobile, markets
heavily to young consumers with prepaid wireless connections, a service
where Sprint is not particularly strong. AT&T, the largest provider of
phone and data services to companies, will send some of its three million
corporate customers to Sprint's networks, too.
It will add another block of customers when it completes its planned merger
with Nextel Communications, which is expected to be completed by the second
half of 2005. Nextel's mobile phone service is particularly popular among
government employees and small businessmen.
By forging partnerships with cable companies, long-distance carriers and
others, though, Sprint may have found a cost-effective way to compete
against the three dominant Bell companies, SBC Communications and
BellSouth, which own the largest wireless carrier, Cingular; and Verizon
Communications which, with Vodafone of Britain, owns the No. 2 carrier,
Another factor in Sprint's success as a wholesaler is its reputation for
running a reliable network that can handle large volumes of traffic and has
"Sprint has engineered their network to be durable," said Michael
Voellinger, the vice president of wireless services at Telwares, an
industry consultant. "We're going to see a lot more of these wholesale deals."
The cable companies are likely to be the biggest customers for Sprint in
the coming years. Cable providers have been looking for ways to distinguish
themselves from satellite TV providers who have teamed with the Bell
companies to offer packages of phone, high-speed Internet access and
Time Warner Cable, for instance, expects to sign up 200,000 subscribers for
its Internet phone service by the end of the year. Sprint carries calls to
and from the cable company's network to the public network. Sprint also
helps Time Warner Cable customers transfer their phone numbers from their
Other cable companies, including Cox Communications and Cablevision
Systems, have also started offering Internet phone services. To compete
with the Bells, many of the largest cable companies have also discussed
forming a consortium that might buy a wireless carrier outright. But that
possibility is more remote now that Sprint plans to merge with Nextel.
One risk in Sprint making wholesaling a significant part of its business,
industry analysts say, is that it might overload its network. That may
become more of a problem when Nextel's 15.3 million customers move onto
27th December 2004
rmahorney @ : Global positioning technology on mobile phones
Go Ahead, Just Try to Disappear
Global positioning technology on mobile phones and other devices can track errant workers, teens or
even pets. The price is privacy.
By David Colker
LA Times Staff Writer
December 27, 2004
As her daughter enjoyed a weekend road trip, Donna Butler sat back home 120 miles away at her
personal computer and watched a blue dot tick slowly across the screen.
But not slowly enough.
"They were going 85 on the interstate where the speed limit is 70," said Butler, who interrupted
17-year-old Danielle's getaway to let her know, " 'I will personally come up there and drive you
It would have been easy to find her. Whenever Danielle is away from her central Florida home, her
mobile phone uses a global positioning system to transmit her precise location, which her mother can
Developed originally as a military tool, GPS is used widely by drivers, hikers and boaters to figure
out where they are. A new generation of relatively cheap GPS-equipped devices can tell others too -
allowing people for the first time to keep constant tabs on their rebellious teens, wandering
spouses or loafing employees.
That prospect comforts mothers like Butler, but it concerns some who see ever more powerful and
invasive technology eroding a sense of personal privacy.
"If your supermarket offers you the chance to take a few cents off a loaf of bread in exchange for
tracking every purchase you make with one of their cards, you do it," said Jonathan Zittrain,
co-founder of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School.
"TiVo quietly makes note of your TV viewing habits. Will we be willing to carry a GPS locator so we
can order a pizza with the push of a button and know it's on its way right to us?"
Although GPS was added to cellphones so that 911 emergency calls could be tracked, 15 million Nextel
Communications Inc. subscribers can now buy the locator service for personal or business use. Next
year the approximately 23 million Sprint Corp. wireless users will be able to sign up. It costs
about $15 a month to turn on the service.
Among the first to sign up was James Kinney, to keep track of workers at his Kinney Construction
Inc. in Orange. His employees are required to carry the phones during the workday.
Shortly after handing out the phones last year, office manager Kristy Collins was demonstrating the
system for a supervisor.
"We looked at the map on the computer that showed all the little dots where a crew was working a
job," Collins said. "But one dot was way over in another spot. The guy was at home instead of on the
Management professor Lucas Introna, who specializes in workplace surveillance issues, said GPS
tracking provided just enough information to breed discontent.
"In an office or a factory situation, a manager who might walk by has access to a whole range of
situational information," said Introna, who teaches at Lancaster University in Britain. "But when a
worker far away knows that every move they make is monitored by someone - without information about
just what they are doing - it takes on a punitive sense."
Kinney didn't disagree. "The guys hate it," he conceded, even though the worker caught at home was
able to show that he had gone to pick up materials needed for the job.
GPS, which uses a network of orbiting satellites to fix precise locations on Earth, was developed
for the military. But as soon as the first satellite in the system was turned on in 1978, academics
were testing its capabilities. By the early 1980s surveyors were using GPS in their work.
GPS has proved to be one of the most popular consumer uses of space technology. So far this year,
nearly 3.9 million new cars came with factory-installed GPS navigation systems, according to
research company CMS Worldwide. In 2008, that number is forecast to reach 6.5 million.
Hand-held GPS units for hikers, bicyclists and runners have steadily fallen in price and are now
available for about $100.
Satellite tracking for the non-military market got its first big boost in 1988 when then-fledgling
Qualcomm Inc. of San Diego introduced a system that allowed fleet managers to spot where their
vehicles were anywhere in the country.
Consumer GPS tracking gear was soon to follow, popping up in shops and eventually on websites that
often had "spy" as part of their names.
"I would say that 60% of my sales are to women who say, 'I think my husband is cheating on me,' "
said Greg Shields of Cincinnati, who operates the Spygear Store on the Web and sells a $500 unit
designed to be magnetically attached to the bottom of a vehicle. "The rest are men who want to track
The unit is removed after several days and plugged into a personal computer to produce a map that
can be zoomed down to the street level to show not only where the vehicle has been but also its
speed and all starts and stops. Shields also sells a $1,200 device that sends the signals back to a
personal computer for real-time tracking.
Customers, including a woman in Phoenix who recently bought a device from him, have been satisfied
with the operation of the units if not the results.
Shields said the woman told him, "My husband was saying he was working late and it turned out he was
going to the Holiday Inn. Now he's living at the Holiday Inn."
In 2002, Wherify Wireless Inc. of Redwood Shores, Calif., debuted a GPS wrist device - which looked
like a gaudy digital watch - for tracking children. The company declined to say how many it had
sold, but one was bought by Zittrain.
"My dog had gotten lost a couple times," he said. "I put it on her collar."
Cellphones entered the picture in 2001, when the Federal Communications Commission ordered mobile
telephone carriers to add technology to handsets that pinpoint their location. The idea was to make
it easier to track 911 emergency calls, which increasingly come from cellphones.
Some carriers adopted technology that used signals from cellphone towers to determine location.
Others, including national carriers Verizon Wireless, Sprint and Nextel, went with GPS.
Although Nextel is the only national carrier to offer GPS services, all new phones sold by these
carriers are GPS- equipped. By the end of 2005, companies that chose GPS are supposed to have
converted at least 95% of their subscribers to the phones, although some carriers have indicated
they will ask the FCC for an extension.
Even without the government regulations, GPS probably would have made its way into cellphone
handsets eventually, said James Dempsey, executive director of the Center for Democracy and
Technology in Washington.
"The commercial value of location services is so valuable, we would probably still be seeing a
proliferation of them anyway," Dempsey said. In addition to locator services, Nextel offers a
function that gives driving directions. A Sprint spokeswoman suggested that one day users could buy
a movie ticket and then automatically get directions to the theater.
Joe Betar just wanted to know where his 13-year-old daughter was.
The owner of a Utah car dealership had already raised two teenagers. "There were numerous nights
when they were not home when they were supposed to be," he said. "We would lie awake worrying about
them. I ended up driving around, looking for them."
So when his daughter wanted a cellphone, Betar picked one out - with a subscription for GPS
tracking. He didn't tell her about it.
"If she knew, she might be tempted to just leave it in some location," Betar said.
For Mark Frankel of the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science in Washington, that crosses a
line. "If a parent gives a teenager one of these phones and tells them, 'It has the ability to track
you,' it can carry the message 'We are concerned about your safety,' " said Frankel, who is director
of the group's Scientific Freedom, Responsibility and Law Program.
"But it troubles me that someone would be tracked without their knowledge, outside of a criminal
situation. When the child finds out about it, and there's a good chance they will, it's a betrayal.
It carries the message 'I have no trust in you.' "
Frankel said that part of being a teenager "is to develop an independent personality. And part of
that is privacy."
Tom Pratt has no such qualms. He told his two children about the GPS units in their mobile phones.
But he said being a kid today is far more dangerous than when he grew up on Long Island in New York.
"Back when I was a kid, on a Saturday you left home when the sun came up and then came back home
when it was time for dinner," he said. Now he worries about his 12- and 13-year-olds, and he pitched
the GPS unit to them as a way to give them more freedom.
"We told our son, 'You don't have to call home every hour anymore,' " Pratt said.
Danielle Butler, whose road trip was interrupted with the warning about speeding, is practically an
adult. But she said she hardly thinks about the phone that allows her to be tracked. "I don't mind,"
she said. "I have nothing to hide."
rmahorney @ : Wireless industry eager for directory
Let them have it if the customers can opt out.
Ray T. Mahorney
Dec. 26, 2004, 8:47PM
Wireless industry eager for directory
Customers likely to resist, crimping ambitious plans
By JON VAN
CHICAGO - At a time when millions of Americans have become more concerned about privacy, cell phone
companies are pushing ahead with a plan to put customers' numbers in a wireless directory.
The industry will begin laying the groundwork to integrate wireless numbers into the existing 411
directory assistance service in January. By spring, most wireless phone companies will start asking
customers if they want their numbers listed.
Most customers are likely to say no, according to surveys.
Despite the resistance, the wireless industry, which has grown to more than 170 million handsets,
believes that listing cell phone numbers is necessary to make their service fully competitive to
But a weary public, already suspicious of privacy intrusions, just wants to be left alone. Even a
third of wired phone customers now pay a fee to keep their numbers delisted.
Yet by summer, wireless numbers could be available when people dial 411. How many cell phone numbers
will be listed, however, is far from clear.
"I'm on the phone thousands of minutes a month with customers, and I don't want to be interrupted by
someone calling to sell me something," Chicago interior designer Michael Panitch said.
A recent survey found that only 10 percent of consumers said they would volunteer their wireless
numbers for directory assistance. The survey of more than 1,000 consumers also found that 53 percent
opposed a nationwide wireless directory, according to market research firm TNS, which conducted the
survey for TRUSTe.
Nonetheless, Cingular, Sprint, T-Mobile and Nextel are pushing ahead with the idea, while Verizon
Wireless and U.S. Cellular will not participate. Qsent, based in Portland, Ore., has been hired by
the participating carriers to manage the directory.
"This will be done on a privacy protected basis," said Greg Keene, Qsent's chief privacy officer.
"If you go on the list and later decide to get off, you can do so with no history."
Furthermore, he said, there will not be a published list, like the White Pages for wired phones. "We
will make individual numbers available to 411 operators, but we won't supply the entire database to
The controversy troubles John Rooney, chief executive of Chicago-based U.S. Cellular Corp.
"I don't understand the arrogance of an industry that goes ahead with this when our customers tell
us they don't want it," he said. "Not one of our customers has ever asked to participate in this.
"Even the customers who don't get mad don't trust us. I just get ticked off that the leaders of our
industry could do something to raise so much customer ire."
The concern that a wireless directory will be implemented has sparked new interest in the federal
government's do-not-call registry. More than
3 million new numbers were registered in the first two weeks of December, officials at the Federal
Trade Commission said.
The list of numbers, which is off limits to telemarketers, usually gets only about 200,000 additions
a week. Misleading e-mail messages that have recently circulated across the Internet warning that
telemarketers will soon get cell numbers are credited with the upturn in listings.
The fear that telemarketers will pester wireless customers once their numbers are public is
misplaced, Keene said. Because it costs anywhere from 50 cents to $1.50 to call 411, telemarketers
would find it unprofitable to use the service to gather numbers, he said.
Still, public unease with the notion of a wireless directory may be having an effect on carriers.
Recently Sprint executives decided against asking their customers to participate in a wireless 411
service next year.
"We still support the concept, but we'll wait out 2005 to see how it goes," a spokesman said.
The value of privacy
Denny Strigl, chief at Verizon Wireless, said that privacy of cell phone numbers is something
customers value greatly.
"Let's as an industry stop pushing something on customers that they clearly don't want. It's a dumb
But other cell phone operators believe that without a wireless directory their service is incomplete
when compared to wired phone service, said Jeff Fishburn, a spokesman for the carriers that are
establishing the service.
"The goal is to draw more people to wireless for communications," he said.
Assuring nervous customers that their cell phone number can be listed without drawing unwanted calls
"Once your number gets into any database, it's out there, and you can't get it back," said Bob
Bulmash, founder of Private Citizen, a Naperville, Ill.-based privacy advocacy group.
"Marketers are getting more sophisticated since the do-not-call list was enacted," he said. "Now
when you check out at a retail store, they ask you for your phone number. They especially want your
cell phone number.
"If you give them your number, they take that as permission to call you since they have a commercial
relationship with you."
The phone industry has been slow to address privacy questions associated with customer phone
numbers, said Kathleen Pierz, an independent telecom consultant based in Clarkston, Mich.
"Phone companies internally don't pay much attention to directory assistance," she said. "It's not a
With the proliferation of ways to reach people - e-mail addresses, cell phone numbers, short message
addresses - there is a growing need to make contact information available in ways that let people
control their privacy, she said.
"Right now the choices are limited to either list or don't list your number," she said. "The
carriers should offer other choices."
One option would be enable someone who calls 411 to ask for John Doe to be told that Doe's number is
unlisted, but the caller could leave a message and number so that Doe can return the call if he
wishes, Pierz said.
Qsent's Keene said that new technologies such as Internet telephony already allow greater freedom in
Internet phone users can program their phones so that certain callers - their spouse, children or
boss - can always get through. Others such as customers or colleagues get through during working
hours, but go into voice mail at other times.
Unknown callers might be programmed to always go
into voice mail and known pests, such as collection
agents, would only get busy signals.
"Once people get that kind of control, they'll be more willing to list their numbers," Keene