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FCC's Analog Cellular Sunset Set for February 18

January 29, 2008

The FCC has just announced that cellular phone companies will not be required to provide analog service after February 18 of this year.

The rulling is consistent with a doctrine widely, if informally, referred to as "analog cellular sunset."

The only two major U.S. cellular companies not affected by this ruling are Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile USA. That's because they have built their services from the ground up as digital- rather than analog-entities. 

Concern exists, however, that the rule could cause some distruptions for General Motors' OnStar in-vehicle communications service. Although On-Star has discontinued its analog servce, owners of older cars without the capability of processng digital signals may find themselves without their electronic (my term) "Good Samaritan."

Here's some further details from the FCC announcement:

There are several ways to tell if a handset is digital or analog.  If it has advanced features such as text or instant messaging, Internet browsing, an MP3 player, or an integrated camera, it is digital.  If it uses a SIM card (a small, removable card that can be found under the phone’s battery), it is digital.  Some wireless phones display an icon indicating that they have digital capabilities.  Many wireless telephone companies have helpful information about their analog-to-digital transition plans on their Web sites. 

To determine how roaming service may be affected by the transition, customers should contact their wireless telephone company directly and inquire whether any of its roaming partners will discontinue their analog service after February 18, 2008.

Alarm Systems.  The analog cellular sunset may affect services relying on analog cellular radio equipment, such as alarm systems with wireless analog radio links.  The majority of alarm systems installed in homes and businesses do not use a wireless radio signal to connect to a central monitoring station.  Some alarm systems, however, use analog radio equipment and send a wireless signal – provided by a wireless telephone company – using the 800 MHz spectrum.

These systems are affected by the transition.  According to the alarm industry, out of a total 26 million installed alarm systems, there are approximately one million systems that use analog radio equipment.  Wireless alarm systems installed before Spring 2006 generally used analog equipment.  Alarm companies are in the process of contacting their customers to arrange for replacement installation of a digital alarm radio. 

Consumers who believe their alarm system relies on an analog wireless radio and haven’t been contacted by their alarm company, or consumers who are unsure about what type of alarm system they have, should contact their alarm company to determine their options for maintaining service.

OnStar.  Analog OnStar service was terminated on December 31, 2007.  Information regarding OnStar service and the analog cellular sunset can be found on the OnStar Web site at

Vehicles equipped with analog-only OnStar equipment cannot be upgraded and no longer receive OnStar service.  OnStar subscribers with vehicles equipped with dual mode (digital and analog) OnStar equipment will continue to receive service.  OnStar subscribers with vehicles equipped with analog/digital-ready equipped vehicles must be upgraded in order to receive service. 

Consumers with questions about their OnStar service should contact OnStar toll-free at 1-866-579-7726 (have your OnStar account number or your vehicle identification number available), or visit OnStar’s Web site at

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