Cellular The New Deals Traveling

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                 Cellular Roaming: The New Deals
                 Traveling with a cellular phones gets easier 
               as carriers work together toward a nationwide 
                 By Karen Kleiner
                 How often would you take your cellular phone 
               out of town with you . . . if you knew you 
               could make and receive calls wherever you went? 
                 Cellular roaming technology is continually 
               evolving toward this goal. Ultimately, we'll 
               have a seamless communications network that is 
               as extensive as it is simple to access. 
               According to Kevin McKeard, director of 
               intercarrier services at McCaw Cellular, the 
               largest nonwireline carrier in the U.S., "The 
               goal is to have the roamer able to use features 
               as easily as in the home market."
                 For cellular companies, making roaming easy 
               for the customer is a difficult task. To 
               accomplish this task requires new technology 
               and increasingly complex agreements among more 
               and more carriers. Yet, the results of the 
               carriers' efforts appear promising.
                 The FCC divided the United States into 306 
               Metro Service Areas (MSAs), or urban markets, 
               and 428 Rural Service Areas (RSAs). Today, all 
               MSAs have regular service available. Of the 428 
               rural markets, approximately 150 now have 
               cellular service. By June 1992, cellular 
               service should be available in all rural 
               markets, enabling the cellular user to roam in 
               any part of the country.
                 The Federal Communications Commission 
               licensed two carriers within each urban or 
               rural market. There's an A carrier (the 
               nonwireline carrier) and a B carrier (the 
               wireline carrier), usually affiliated with the 
               local telephone company. For example, in Los 
               Angeles, the A carrier is L.A. Cellular, a 
               company that deals exclusively in cellular 
               communications, while the B carrier is PacTel 
               Cellular, owned by Pacific Bell, the local 
               landline giant. There are approximately four 
               hundred such cellular companies that hold 
               licenses to the numerous markets throughout the 
                 You must choose between the A or B carrier 
               when you sign up for service in your home 
               market. However, when you're roaming, you can 
               alternate as you like between the A and B 
               providers in the host service area. Cellular 
               phones have an A/B switch, which allows you to 
               choose between the two. You may want to switch 
               for a variety of reasons. For instance, the 
               alternate carrier may have lower rates, or it 
               may provide a wider coverage area in the city 
               you're traveling through. Also, your carrier 
               (the A carrier) may not have a roaming 
               agreement on the A band in the market you're 
               traveling in, or may have an agreement with the 
               B carrier in that market.
                 When you become a cellular customer, your 
               carrier will give you roaming capability as a 
               standard feature. You must pay for all airtime 
               (as with local cellular use), whether you're 
               making or receiving a call. Rates vary from 
               approximately 50 cents to $1.00 per minute. If 
               you're calling long distance, additional 
               charges are paid either by you or the person 
               you're speaking with. Most cellular companies 
               also charge a roaming rate of $2.00 to $3.00 
               per day. A few companies, like MetroPhone in 
               Philadelphia, charge no extra daily roaming fee 
               to their subscribers.
                 The procedure for placing an outgoing call 
               varies, depending upon which carrier you're 
               signed up with, which market you're roaming in 
               and the agreements your cellular company has 
               made within that market. Every cellular carrier 
               provides specific information on dialing 
               procedures in its roamer guide, which you can 
               obtain by calling an information number. In a 
               host city, you can call the carrier directly 
               and inquire about roaming procedures. 
                 A good additional resource for keeping on top 
               of the market boundaries is The Cellular 
               Telephone Directory, published by 
               Communications Publishing [(800) 366-6731] This 
               reference guide contains maps of all coverage 
               areas. It also includes instructions for 
               sending and receiving calls in all cities, as 
               well as an 800 number for each carrier.
                 Placing Calls as a Roamer
                 When you're away from your home area and able 
               to roam, a roam indicator LCD or verbal display 
               will light up on your phone. Usually, you'll be 
               able to roam automatically, dialing out without 
               any prior arrangements with the host carrier. 
                 Many carriers offer special roaming features 
               that truly benefit the customer. For example, 
               "Proactive Roaming," offered by BellSouth 
               Mobility, takes the initiative and calls you 
               when you enter a new market. The service 
               welcomes you to the city and gives general 
               roaming information. "The call is free to the 
               customer," says Joanne Blout, director of 
               strategic market planning for BellSouth, "and 
               we give the customer the option of not being 
               called again when he or she returns to that 
               particular market."
                 Dialing "*711" in most markets will connect 
               you with a roaming information line. The 
               information line generally provides a tutorial 
               on roaming and in some cases uses interactive 
               voice response.
                 Receiving Calls As A Roamer
                 As a rule, if you let callers know when and 
               where you'll be, they can reach you by dialing 
               the roamer port access number in the city 
               you're in, followed by your ten-digit cellular 
               phone number. To expedite the process, you can 
               leave a message on your outgoing voice mail 
               informing callers where you'll be and the 
               roamer port access number to reach you. If the 
               caller chooses to reach you on your mobile 
               phone, he or she pays the long distance phone 
               charge and you pay for the cellular air time.
                 Several services exist that make reaching a 
               roamer easier. One such service, called "Follow 
               Me Roaming" (FMR), provided by GTE 
               Telecommunications, is available primarily 
               through B carriers. Another, Appex 
               Corporation's "Roaming American"--sometimes 
               called "Nationlink"--is available primarily 
               through A carriers.
                 FMR can be accessed in over 300 cities 
               nationwide. You can tell if the city you're 
               roaming in offers it by looking in your roamer 
               guidebook. When you're ready to activate the 
               service, you simply dial "*18" and press SEND. 
               You'll hear a confirming beep tone or message. 
               Then press END. Within fifteen to thirty 
               minutes, callers can reach you simply by 
               dialing your mobile number, without even 
               knowing where you are.
                 Some slight disadvantages to Follow Me 
               Roaming should be pointed out. For instance, 
               when a caller uses FMR to reach you, your 
               account is charged for both cellular airtime 
               and the long distance tolls from the caller's 
               city to the city you're roaming in. Also, when 
               FMR is activated, your voice-mail cannot be 
               used. This means if you're away from the car, 
               on the phone, or your phone is turned off, your 
               calls will not be answered.
                 If you leave a market or wish to deactivate 
               the service while there, you simply dial "*19." 
               At midnight every night, FMR automatically 
               deactivates, so if you want to continue the 
               service, you need to reactivate it the next 
               morning. When you travel to a new market, FMR 
               must be reprogrammed in order for calls to 
               reach you.
                 Similar to FMR, Nationlink allows a caller to 
               reach the roamer simply by dialing that 
               particular phone number. The roamer pays both 
               airtime and long distance charges. Nationlink 
               also provides an option called "Caller 
               Notification," which enables the roamer to save 
               on long distance calls. In this mode, the 
               caller hears a message stating, "The customer 
               you are trying to reach is not in the service 
               area." The message then gives the caller the 
               roamer port number for the city the roamer is 
               in. With this option, the caller, rather than 
               the roamer, pays the long distance charges--if 
               the caller chooses to proceed with the call.
                 Call Delivery
                 A still simpler method of receiving calls is 
               currently available within limited geographic 
               areas: call delivery. This service relies upon 
               a network of computers belonging to different 
               carriers in different markets to communicate 
               and deliver calls.
                 PacTel's call delivery service, "Auto-
               Access," requires just one activation to be 
               kept on indefinitely while you travel, 
               eliminating the hassle of programming it again 
               the next day, as you would have to with most 
               other roaming plans. PacTel currently offers 
               this service to its subscribers in many cities 
               in California, as well as in Reno, Nevada. It 
               plans to expand the service to other cities, 
               including Las Vegas. Other carriers have 
               similar networks in Florida, the Great Lakes 
               region, the Northeast, the Pacific Northwest 
               and in Canada.
                 McCaw Cellular currently provides a call 
               delivery service in both the Pacific Northwest 
               and Florida. Their "Cellular One" network 
               provides service along all major interstate 
               corridors in Washington, Oregon and British 
               Columbia. By October of this year, it plans to 
               introduce a "seamless network" in which 
               computers from those regions, as well as 
               California and the Northeast, will be linked. 
               By December, McCaw will add Texas and 
               Minnesota. Call delivery will be offered 
               everywhere in the system.
                 Bob Ratliffe, vice president of 
               communications for McCaw Cellular, says that 
               "when McCaw finishes its national network, all 
               home market features will be available for 
               roamers." For example, voice mail that is 
               inoperative when using Follow Me Roaming will 
               be available with call delivery when the 
               network is fully operational.
                 Nationwide Cellular Switchboard
                 The overall goal of the industry, according 
               to Norman Black, director of public affairs and 
               communications for the Cellular 
               Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA), 
               is to provide nationwide automatic call 
               delivery. He believes that if the technology 
               progresses on schedule and Judge Green (the 
               magistrate in charge of the AT&T breakup) 
               issues a waiver, the entire industry will have 
               call delivery in place by the first quarter of 
               1992. This means that all the computers 
               throughout the country will be able to 
               communicate with each other. All calls will 
               find the correct customers, no matter where 
               they are, and without them having to do 
               anything other than pick up their phones!
                 A national network will have other benefits, 
               as well. Presently, roamers sometimes lose a 
               call while moving to a different market. "Call 
               handoff," available in some regions, prevents 
               this from occurring. The computer passes the 
               call from one system to the next without the 
               roamer hearing any clue of the switch. As 
               different types of carrier computers become 
               compatible with each other, call handoff will 
               be easier to achieve on a national basis. Any 
               custom features that subscribers have in their 
               home market will be transferred and accessible 
               in the market in which they're roaming.
                 With the arrival of a national network, the 
               industry may also find innovative solutions to 
               the problem of cellular fraud, which resulted 
               in $100 million in losses last year alone. For 
               one thing, call validation will become that 
               much simpler for the roamer and more accurate, 
               helping to insure calls are not illegally 
               charged to a user's number. Likewise, computers 
               in the market that the roamer enters will be 
               able to identify customers and know whether 
               their credit is good even before they place 
               their first call.
                 In the future, cellular phone numbers will 
               truly be identified with individual 
               subscribers, regardless of their location. This 
               will be a major step toward what many 
               visionaries see as a new communications age: An 
               era where we will have a go-anywhere personal 
               communications device with us at all times. 
               This pocket-sized unit will retain all the 
               features and simplicity we're used to from our 
               present home landline phones . . . and more.