Fast facts

Fast facts courtesy of the Cellular Telephone Industry Association

Federal regulators have approved a measure that will allow Americans to dial 511 on their telephones anywhere in the United States to get the latest travel-related information, including road construction and congestion points.

The Federal Communications Commission approved an application from the Department of Transportation (DOT) to establish a three-digit number to help reduce traffic congestion, cut pollution and fuel consumption, alert drivers to road construction and enhance road safety.

Domestically, as of Dec. 31, 1999, there were more than 86.1 million wireless subscribers, the equivalent to more than 31 percent of the U.S. population. There are 95,573,088 U.S. wireless subscribers, and an estimated 45,924 new subscribers every day, one every two seconds.

Experts estimate that by 2005, there will be more than 1.26 billion wireless phone users around the world.

The number of digital subscribers soared to more than 38.5 million by midyear 1999, amounting to 47.5 percent of all wireless subscribers in the United States.

When you talk on a wireless phone, it transmits low energy radio waves to a local antenna site, which connects you with the landline or wireless location you are calling. That same antenna sends signals back to your wireless phone. A computerized system monitors each call and ensures that the phone receives the strongest available signal at all times.

A permanently installed mobile phone makes the most sense if you will be making all your calls from your vehicle. If you wish to maintain some flexibility, you can use a cigarette lighter adapter to power a portable phone and add accessories that boost transmitting power or hook it to an external antenna, which can be critical for the quality of the signal you receive.

If you are not using an external antenna, keep the antenna on your phone vertical and as high as possible. Make sure to place your transportable phone on the seat and not on the floor.

The key factor in choosing an external antenna is the terrain in your area. Unity gain or 0 decibel gain antennas are generally best in cities or mountainous areas because they radiate the same vertically as horizontally. If you use your phone most in areas with flat terrain, consider an antenna with more gain, because it radiates in a flatter, more elongated pattern.

No wireless service is perfectly secure, but the wireless industry has made significant investments to thwart eavesdroppers and phone number thieves. Coincidentally, a recent survey conducted by the Gallup organization found that 90 percent of people polled feel safer and more secure with a wireless phone.

Slim batteries weigh less and provide less talk time and standby time than extended life batteries. Slim batteries usually cost more because the battery cells are usually more expensive.

NiCad batteries, using an older technology, are prone to “memory effect,” a gradual reduction in capacity caused by repeated charging before the battery has been completely discharged. The battery learns to charge only part way if it is continually recharged before being discharged completely. NiMH batteries are less prone to memory effect because of a different electrode structure, but they still must be charged in an appropriate manner.

NiMH offer slightly longer talk time than NiCad but do not perform well in extreme temperatures and discharge significantly more quickly than NiCad when they are not used. Although they are more expensive, NiMH are also more environmentally friendly.

To avoid memory effect on your phone’s battery, completely discharge your battery before recharging it. Just leave your phone switched on until it drains the battery and shuts off. If you haven’t used your phone for more than a week, discharge and recharge it. Never leave your battery in a charger over several days — this will shorten battery life.

Nearly 98,000 calls a day are made to 911 and other emergency numbers from wireless phones — more than 35 million annually.

A national poll found that more than 60 percent of wireless phone users have called for help in cases of car trouble, medical emergencies or to report a crime or drunk driver, and close to 90 percent said safety and security were the best reasons for owning a wireless phone. In fact, by a two-to-one margin, those polled said safety and security are more important to them than business convenience.

A core segment, 17 percent, of all wireless users, is dependent on the wireless phone to such an extent that it would be a real hardship to give it up for three months. This group, which believes that it could not do without a wireless phone, includes people who spend more than $50 per month on wireless phone service, business users, members of upper-income households and men ages 18 to 44.

The wireless industry earns solid marks when consumers are asked how much they feel they get in return for their money. In fact, users give wireless telephone service companies ratings on par with those that they give long distance telephone companies and those that Internet users give to their online service companies.

Today, 56 percent of wireless users say that, over the course of time that they have been using wireless phones, they have had at least two phones.

Business users are almost twice as likely as are personal users to express overall interest in wireless phones that provide data services.

The customer does not get stuck with the bill if someone fraudulently uses his or her account. It has been the policy of wireless carriers to remove fraudulent charges from the accounts of customers. However, wireless fraud is not a victimless crime. It adds to the cost of doing business and legitimate customers are inconvenienced.

Wireless carriers are waging a high-tech war against high-tech criminals, attacking on several fronts. The industry supports field investigations of criminal operations; education programs for law enforcement and carrier personnel; the strengthening of legal sanctions; and research into new technological solutions including radio frequency fingerprinting, personal identification numbers, roamer verification, reinstatement profile and authentication.

To learn more about the wireless industry, go to the Cellular Telephone Industry Association home page at