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#TBT: Prepaid beepers and ‘data pagers’; Sprint PCS gears up to launch … this week in 1996

Editor’s Note: RCR Wireless News goes all in for “Throwback Thursdays,” tapping into our archives to resuscitate the top headlines from the past. Fire up the time machine, put on the sepia-tinted shades, set the date for #TBT and enjoy the memories!

Getyer prepaid beepers here!
The option to pay in advance for wireless service is booming in the cellular industry. The same trend may soon spread in paging. Grab ‘n Go is a prepaid beeper package unveiled by SkyTel Corp. and Sony Wireless Telecommunications Co. at PCS ’96 earlier this month. Customers pay one price for a pager and a set quantity of numeric pages. There are no monthly bills and no fees. Concurrently, Sony has introduced two numeric pagers, the MP-1000 and MP-2000, flagging its entrance into the consumer paging market. Whereas prepaid cellular’s main target is people with poor or no credit or those who are on a budget, SkyTel and Sony’s intention with Grab n’ Go is to make its mark among infrequent users concerned about cost. “There is a large segment of the consumer market who would like to use a pager on occasion for safety and convenience purposes, but do not feel that their call volume would justify the ongoing monthly cost,” said Sanford Weisman, vice president and general manager of SkyTel’s consumer products group … Read more

The future is … connecting your pager to a keyboard
The futuresque communications previously only envisioned by StarTrek’s writers are reality in the here and now as demonstrated at PCS ’96 by students of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab, in conjunction with Motorola Inc. The communications technology projects exhibited by MIT use Motorola’s FLEX family of data transmission protocols. … Some innovations produced through the lab will remain proprietary, while others will be shared with the industry and other educational institutions, noted Page. Underscoring much of MIT Media Lab’s work in wireless is the concept of personal area networks, in which individuals carry a portable device. One project exhibited by MIT showed how a pager could easily connect with a larger keyboard of a computer, so a two-way messaging user has more typing flexibility than with a belt-top size messaging device like Tango. Page said technology allows the human body itself, which is surrounded by an electromagnetic field, to conduct information between two sources. Today we use wires, modems or wireless modems, said Page. Why not your arms and legs? … Read more

“Data pagers,” oooOOOoooo
NEC America Inc. introduced what it believes to be the first in a new class of pagers: The Beacon data pager. The device is a one-way FLEX pager that uses wireless data exchange software from Microsoft Corp. to transfer and coordinate information with Windows-based personal computers, said NEC. “The product represents a new series of pagers. First we had numeric and then alphanumeric, and now we have data pagers, which the Beacon represents the first one, that allow you to send objects that are application specific,” said Ted Pielemeier, business development manager for NEC. NEC said the data pager, featuring an oversized 8-line screen, can store schedules, address books and other personal information that is typically stored in PCs. The software enables the data pager to move Personal Information Manager (PIM) or other application-based information back and forth between Windows-based PCs or between Beacon pagers through a bi-directional infrared communications link built into the pager. Microsoft’s software includes a data manager for the desktop which allows users to select important information such as phone numbers, addresses or personal lists, and put the information in ranking order, said NEC. Beacon users also can prioritize incoming pages for future transfer back to their PCs by infrared link. The device can save up to 170 messages, said the company … Read more

Sprint PCS gets set to launch
Qualcomm Personal Electronics says it is meeting the handset manufacturing contract requirements of Sprint PCS, which intends to launch service in 15 to 20 major markets by year’s end. Even though Sprint recently signed a handset contract with Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., Samsung isn’t scheduled to make initial deliveries to Sprint until April. Which means the fanfare service launch by Sprint PCS depends on handsets coming from the new California manufacturing partnership of Qualcomm Inc./Sony Electronics Inc. Sprint PCS is expected to use Sony brand handsets at launch. Sprint PCS is the new name for Sprint Spectrum, the Sprint Corp.-cable TV venture that owns personal communications services licenses in 33 major trading areas covering 190 million people. Sprint PCS and Samsung have signed a three-year agreement, valued at $600 million. Samsung will build the Code Division Multiple Access phones at its plant in Kumi, Korea, and ship them to the United States … Read more

Meanwhile, CDMA starts to emerge
Ameritech Cellular Services announced it has successfully completed a 15-month test of its Code Division Multiple Access network in Illinois. ClearPath, the new name for the system, was tested in a seven-cell test bed reaching from the company’s headquarters in Hoffman Estates to Woodstock, Ill., a distance of about 30 miles. Actor Bill Richmond, a regular on Ameritech’s Test Town television commercials, placed the first digital call on the network to Woodstock Acting Mayor Joan Mansfield. Ameritech said it plans to make the system commercially available in the first half of 1997 … Read more

Microsoft intros Windows CE: 32 bits, baby
The market for handheld devices may get a shot in the arm now that Microsoft Corp. has introduced Windows CE, a 32-bit operating system platform that can support a broad range of communications, computing and entertainment products, including those for wireless networks. “We think this is a very important introduction because it integrates desktop functionality and synchronization with handheld in a platform that’s recognized and that people are comfortable with … Our market research with end-users clearly demonstrates a desire for a handheld unit if it automatically synchronizes with the desktop/notebook,” said Gerry Purdy, president and chief executive officer of Cupertino, Calif.-based Mobile Insights Inc., a research firm specializing in the mobile computing industry. The software giant’s operating system, developed under the widely known code name “Pegasus,” is compact, providing high performance in limited memory configurations, said Microsoft. Windows CE also will be suitable for digital information pagers and cellular smart phones along with next-generation entertainment and multimedia consoles as well as Internet access devices, the company added … Read more

Wiretapping debate in D.C.
WASHINGTON-While carriers, manufacturers and the FBI continue to argue about digital wiretap implementation, the wireless telecom industry is quietly lobbying Congress to keep personal communications services and digital cellular licensees from having to pay for equipment changes. Under the 1994 digital wiretap law, known officially as the Communications Assistance and Law Enforcement Act, telecom carriers that deploy systems after Jan. 1, 1995 or that perform major upgrades to existing systems after that date are not eligible to be reimbursed for costs associated with CALEA compliance. That means new PCS licensees have to foot the bill incorporating software and hardware into their networks that meet FBI eavesdropping requirements. It also means that cellular carriers converting from analog to digital technology after January 1995 have to pay for wiretap modifications. And that, according to the FBI, is what is driving the digital wiretap controversy that erupted just more than a week ago in Los Angeles when an industry technical committee rejected what it characterized as a push by law enforcement to go beyond the law by requiring ongoing location identification of pocket phones and pager subscribers … Read more

Check out the RCR Wireless News’ Archives for more stories from the past.


Kelly Hill
Kelly Hill
Kelly reports on network test and measurement, as well as the use of big data and analytics. She first covered the wireless industry for RCR Wireless News in 2005, focusing on carriers and mobile virtual network operators, then took a few years’ hiatus and returned to RCR Wireless News to write about heterogeneous networks and network infrastructure. Kelly is an Ohio native with a masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, where she focused on science writing and multimedia. She has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, The Oregonian and The Canton Repository. Follow her on Twitter: @khillrcr

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