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Wireless Networks


Here are a few brief facts about using circuit-switched cellular networks for data applications:

  • Analog cellular networks are not designed for data applications.
  • There is a finite amount of connect time for each connection - therefore they are not efficient for always-on applications.
  • Since usage charges are on per minute basis, cellular networks may be quite cost-effective for file transfer applications
  • Since cellular networks have been around for many years, these networks have better coverage than digital PCS networks (as of 1999) in North America.

The following table gives additional information about analog cellular networks.

Cellular Network Summary

Brief Description
  • AMPS-based analog network with the largest user base among any of the wireless networks. Predominant use is for voice, with limited data use by mobile workers for e-mail, file transfer and sales automation.
  • Cellular handset
  • A wireless cell site (a base station)
  • MTSO (Mobile Telephone Switching Office)
Frequency Bands
  • 800-900 MHz
  • Extensive, rivaled only by satellite; not available in very remote areas with low population.
Capacity and Speed
  • Industry is increasing capacity to meet increasing demand for voice.
  • Data speed is limited to 4800-14400 bps; effective sustainable speed is still low (9600).
Protocols Supported
  • Works in an asynchronous mode similar to a PSTN dial-up connection; therefore most protocols are supported (IPX/SPX, TCP/IP, SNA).
Most Suitable Applications
  • Voice communication
  • E-mail, file transfer, and sales automation
  • Not suitable for applications based on interactive on-line transaction (OLTP).
  • Charges are for per-minute connection time intervals (20 to 30 cents per minute in USA); some networks (Bell Mobility) charge in 10 second intervals
  • A 600-character e-mail message may cost 40 cents to 60 cents, including set up time
  • PCMCIA cellular modems cost $2000-300
  • 90% of USA and Canada (urban and rural areas); less extensive in Europe, but expanding
  • Planners should assume that analog cellular will be phased out and replaced by services based on D-AMPs (digital) and PCS/GSM.
  • Low — very easy to eavesdrop and listen to conversations, or to steal data. End-to-end encryption recommended.
  • Currently offer more coverage than other networks
  • No special software drivers required; applications can be used as is
  • Supports session-oriented applications
  • Compatible with remote network access (RNA) products — good LAN support
  • Cheapest network for file transfer
  • Easy to use — no special equipment other than a modem and a cellular phone.
  • Cost is high for short messages
  • Unreliable transmission as compared to packet radio networks
  • Long setup (connection) time for On Line Transaction type access
  • Data is normally given lower priority than voice
  • Being replaced by CDPD for short message applications

For more information on cellular networks, please refer to chapter 8 of the Mobile Computing Handbook or refer to other radio network books.


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