No Cell PhoneCell Phone Service providers will soon start shutting down the oldest of the industry’s cellular networks starting in February of 2008. The shutdown concerns only the largely outdated Analog networks.

The shutdown will probably not affect you. Here’s some of the criteria: If this sounds like you please for heaven’s sake go buy a new cell phone or home security system. We’re all worried about you!

Cell Phones

The three main carriers that still service Analog phones are AT&T, Verison Wireless, and Alltel, respectively. If your phone is over five years old or if you can send a text message or browse the Internet, your phone isn’t analog. It’s digital. For that matter, if your phone is over five years old and still works, please post and tell us the make and model. Because I want one. My phone is two years old and through the miracle of predictive texting sends gibberish messages to friends. If those friends are lucky, there’s unintentional profanity mixed in there with my “I’ll see you there” messages.

Emergency-Only Phones. As one might immediately assume: “If your calling 911, you’re screwed.” Except that there are plenty of “911-only” phones out there. Donation programs and other beneficial organizations often distribute these phones. Their hearts are in the right place, but their cell phone technology isn’t. These phones are largely Analog (The best way to keep the cost of emergency phones cheap is to use old technology) and will not be working when the Analog networks are decommissioned. So keep a roll of quarters handy.

Coincidently, Alltel and AT&T are also phasing out their first-generation Digital networks, called D-AMPS or TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access). This affects only older-model cellular phones, as they’ve been reducing reliance on these technologies since 2001.

On Star

Bad news for those that bought an On-Star equipped vehicle before 2004: you’re included in this little decommissioning nightmare. As you might imagine, American-made cars used old technology to keep the costs of On Star down, and now your car will no longer be able to report a flat, find you concert tickets, or report your lousy driving right to the manufacturer. Not that it’s just American cars: TeleAid (Mercedes) and Lexux Link (Guess the manufacturer) are also affected. Best part: None of these systems are upgradeable. You’ll be able to upgrade your On Star if your vehicle is newer than 2004 or 2005 model years. If not, you can always seek out the many Class Action suites this shoddy designmanship has given birth to. Or you could just buy a Honda, like everyone else whose wizened up.

Burglar Alarms

Have these ever worked correctly? No. But just to accentuate that point, some Home Security Systems that connect to emergency contact personnel will cease to operate. Most systems have a built in wireless connection in case someone cuts the phone line. Generally, only homes with no wired phone service have used analog wireless service. Alarm systems using digital wireless links became available in 2006.

If you’re unsure if you fall into any of these categories, contact your service provider (whatever that service may be) and make sure that you’re covered. Remember, you’ve got until February, but don’t wait too long. While this may seem like a trivial tech issue, many emergency response devices rely on Analog, or have in the past. It’s best to make sure. Good Luck!