Local News

Analog Cell-Phone Users Won't Be Able to Call 911

Posted February 8, 2008

— More than 1 million analog cell-phone users nationwide will lose service – including the ability to dial 911 – when service providers move entirely to digital signals in less than two weeks, Durham police warned.

On Feb. 19, the federal government will require that all cell-phone service providers stop using analog signals and switch to digital signals. Analog cell phones, most of which are more than 5 years old, will no longer work.

“We have been advised that AT&T Mobility, Alltel, Cellular One, Verizon Wireless and other cellular providers will be turning off their analog networks on Feb. 19 due to a change in Federal Communications Commission requirements,” said James Soukup, director of Durham Emergency Communications Center.

“This means that our residents who use analog cell phones, which include most cell phones that are more than five years old, will be unable to dial 911 for emergency assistance.”

U.S. Cellular plans to provide analog service until late 2008.

Analog cell-phone users should go to their provider's retail store for an upgrade.

For more information about the national analog cell phone system shutdown, click here.


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  • MoroccoMole Feb 8, 2008

    dh1964 - Actually, you won't be able to. The towers won't be listening any more, nor will they be able to transmit on the analog frequencies. The spectrum is being 'reposessed' by the government for reallocation to other uses. It's more than deactivation, its actual disablement and removal of the underlying support infrastructure needed to make them work.

  • colliedave Feb 8, 2008

    With the government helping individuals by converter boxes with the switch from analog to digital TV wonder if the government doing the same thing in this situation?

  • dh1964 Feb 8, 2008

    Someone said: "I love the boo scary headline! ... The good news is that they won't be receiving a bill anymore either."

    Actually, the law requires that wireless operators accept 911 calls even from inactivated phones. So, presuming that your battery was charged, you could make a 911 call for free from your old analog phone.

  • MoroccoMole Feb 8, 2008

    And not just phones. A fair number of older cars with OnStar are not upgradable to digital. Solution - buy a new car! (My folks just had to do this.)

  • smitty Feb 8, 2008

    I love the boo scary headline! "Analog Cell-Phone Users Won't Be Able to Call 911" (or their mother, or anybody else for that matter).

    The good news is that they won't be receiving a bill anymore either.

  • Travised Feb 8, 2008

    The FCC is selling off some of the bandwidth. That may be part of this. If I recall my days gone by, I could pick up the old analog tower broadcasts on Channel 72 or so if I was within close proximity. My last table I have only goes up to 68 on UHF, and that is at 805Mhz US standards. Scary to think if you are close to a cell tower you could pick up analog transmissions on your TV.

  • -info- Feb 8, 2008

    Gotta love a government that states you are free to use and do as we mandate...I agree with MrPearce

  • MrPearce Feb 8, 2008

    Why would you want to go backwards to GSM?

    Even the Europeans have found themselves in a dismal hole because of GSM and the cost to upgrade it to 3G.

    Most of the GSM to 3G upgrades involve switching to a variant CDMA.

    GSM is horrific for coverage in rural or sparsely populated areas. 2 reasons: (1) infrastructure costs money, and (2) it takes more infrastructure for GSM.

  • Dr. Dataclerk Feb 8, 2008

    Oh well, who in the world are they calling all day. It cannot be that many emergencies. Its just a habit of distraction.

  • bigredtruckman Feb 8, 2008

    DurhamDude, in countries going through CDMA to GSM conversion, there are two solutions in place.

    The first is the dual phone solution where literally the consumer carries two phones, and if they have a GSM signal, then the GSM phone rings, otherwise the CDMA phone rings. There are also a small number of dual mode phones which act as a GSM and CDMA phone in one package, but they are expensive. This is a clunky solution, but it works on both networks.

    The second solution is that the consumer purchases a GSM phone and has their number ported from the CDMA network to the GSM network. In that case, they only have one standard GSM phone, but it will only work when in range of a GSM tower. It will not work in the CDMA network. The upside is that they only have one phone and have many standard GSM phones to choose from. The downside is that in some rural areas, there is not yet a GSM network installed. As the companies expand their GSM networks, this becomes less of a problem.