Cell phones usage during Y2K debacle

greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

This great granny is fairly computer literate, but certainly electronically challenged. Would someone like to explain how the use of cell phones, as some have suggested, will be possible when all the computers take a holiday? Do not cell phones have to be tracked through computer systems for billing of customers?

-- Holly Allen (holly3325@juno.com), May 29, 1998


If they can figure out a way to keep those satellites up there from going Y2Kaput and the ground equipment is operating because the power didn't go off, you may still have a chance to use your cell phone. I wouldn't count on it.

-- Hull Stetson (stetson.hull@usa.net), May 29, 1998.

Cellphones don't use satellites (directly) (except Satphones, which are normally used only by weapons inspectors in Iraq and suchlike)

A cellphone maintains a radio link to a nearby cellphone base station. You'll often spot these alond main roads: small towers with a cluster of radio antennas at the top. The pnone call is carried from the base station to its destination along conventional land-based lines. In many cases it'll be using the same network that conventional phones use.

Therefore there's no particular reason to think that cellphones will work if conventional phones won't. Indeed, because of the extra computers involved in transferring a cellphone call from one base station to another if the phone is moving, there's more to go wrong.

The only advantage is that a cellphone may give you access to a different operator's land-based network to the one that your conventional phone uses, and it may also bypass the "local loop" (mainly your town's local telephone exchange). Therefore if there is a local failure or one specific to a particular supplier, a cellphone may give you a second chance of a phone service.

If you want to maintain local communications if the phone system really gets hit hard, I can't help thinking that CB radios may be a better bet.

-- Nigel Arnot (nra@maxwell.ph.kcl.ac.uk), June 01, 1998.

Nigel -

I agree with most of what you say, but am concerned that predicted solar flares early in the year 2000 may also limit CB. The effect of the flare up will be to increase background noise (static), which, in turn, reduces the range over which the CB is useful.

There's some indication that ham radio will stand up (different frequencies, higher power, increased antenna gain), so that may be the first choice for an emergency network.

But, I have suggested locally that CBs be used, with a base station located at our local rural fire house (they have emergency power backup). This provides a rudimentary system, with the base station (again, higher power) being able to serve as a relay station for important but non-emergency messages, as well as being able to field emergency response calls. [Our volunteer fire departments also host emergency response personnel.] It remains to be seen what sort of range can be obtained. It also will require folks to stay off of any designated emergency channel. (Good luck?)

As far as just 'chatting'? CB will work, but I expect it to be both noisy and crowded in many places.

Good luck, Holly.

-- Rocky Knolls (rknolls@hotmail.com), June 01, 1998.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ