[aprssig] Re: Cell phone and Pager alerts

Mike Galgano mgalgano at nanosecond.com
Wed Feb 1 17:28:53 EST 2006

KC2MMi wrote:

><<As someone who lives in an area where cell capacity can't keep up
>with subscribers, I can just imagine how this works.
>1)  An emergency occurs
>2)  The system sends out alerts to thousands of cell phones, all at once.
>3)  All of the cells become overloaded, and the calls drop. >>
>Rich, I don't think you can imagine how it works. The reverse-911 systems
>typically use SMS messaging, which goes on the cell systems' data channel,
>first. They've got capacity up the wazoo for SMS messaging, it is not the same
>as voice capacity at all.
>But I'm frankly disappointed to see all the hams snigglng at the "civilians who
>are too dumb to be hams" again and again. You all--including Bob--wouldn't WANT
>a hundred and fifty million more hams licensed, you'd be complaining there was
>no bandwidth. Oh, wait, that's right, that's already a problem.
>The fact is that if your concern is public safety, rather than elitism and
>snobbery, the cell phone and pager systems are the best public safety comms that
>we've got. Are they good? Maybe. Could they be way better? Easily. So, quit
>making rude jokes about the unlicensed masses and try building a better world
>for all of us instead.
>Write to your local CongressCritter, and ask them to improve the cell phone and
>pager infrastructure. It can *easily* be made more robust. It can easily be
>given backup power. It can easily be hardened and given higher capacity. And,
>unlike your 1950's ham radios, it is fully computer controlled so there's an
>awful lot that can be done in the software to manage traffic. More than any hams
>will ever accomplish on ham radio.
>Honest, folks, the schoolboy niggles at the unlicensed masses are outright
>embarrassing. Cell phones worked in Florida after Wilma. They worked in NYC
>during and after 9/11 and even during the Great NorthEast Blackout.
>Or, is all that laughter just the sign of closet anxiety, because the unlicensed
>masses have a better handitalkie than hams do? Hmmmm.....Longer battery life,
>full encryption, full duplex, thousands more repeaters....Envious?
I support the distribution of information to first responders and the 
public by any means possible. Those of us who watch the news (and these 
SIGs) have seen the cellphone folks berate hams and their equipment - as 
you do - for reasons I certainly don't understand. Those of us who have 
participated in emergency drills - not even real emergencies - have seen 
the incident commanders turning to their amateur radio partners even 
before the cellphones jam up (and they really, really, do - even during 
drills!). The reverse-911 system will be (or is) a swell thing. I hope 
its computer(s) know that my phone is within the service area now - 
something it doesn't seem to do very well on its own day to day. While I 
have never had to turn my computerized (1950s?) ham gear off and on once 
a day for the nearby digis and repeaters to find me, that is what my 
cellphone provider wants me to do. I have ham equipment that I can count 
on being satisfied with nearly 100% of the time. My cellphone barely 
rates a C+. I could shoot an arrow and hit the cell tower near my house. 
What I can't do is depend on a call to or from my cellphone not being 
dropped while under its gaze. More bars in more places? Until they 
disappear spontaneously.... is that a feature or a flaw of having so 
many computers involved 'to manage traffic'?

All the commercial radio gear, ham gear, and the cellphone 
infrastructure have critical missions in various settings. We do all 
need to understand and appreciate the public penetration of cell 
technology and the opportunity it could and should afford in 
emergencies. We must also admit that cellular systems, with corporations 
constantly merging and divesting, have made themselves their own worst 
enemies, saddled with getting systems - that were designed without these 
corporate realities in mind -  to all work together 'seamlessly'... Take 
a step or two into each of the settings where ham radio has 
traditionally shown its strengths, then try a cellphone in the same 
setting. Heck, try it in my backyard! Let me know what you figure out. 
Use APRS to find me, my cellphone doesn't work all that well.

Mike Galgano
a not-yet satisfied Cingular (nee AT&T) customer

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