Fixed Wireless Brings Cell Service to Analog Jacks

Telular is testing the U.S. waters with a cell-phone-to-landline box. It's done quite well selling to countries that don't have the landline penetration of the United States.

With all of the advances in computer and wireless technology over the past 20 years, youd think that landline telephone systems—sometimes referred to as the "Plain Old Telephone System" (POTS)—would have vanished by now. But despite the uptake in cell phone users, the vast majority of homes and businesses depend on copper wire for telephone service, just as they have for the past 50-plus years.

Slowly, though, things are changing. Cell phone coverage and equipment have improved to the point where there is less difference between the quality of cell networks and the POTS. Emergency 911 service, previously difficult to use on wireless, is also comparable to landline quality. Consumers are reacting, and the number of households and businesses that are completely wireless is growing.

/zimages/3/28571.gifRead more here about moves to provide E911 (Enhanced 911) services.

Cashing in on this nascent trend are companies such as Telular Corp., which offers, among other things, a line of "fixed wireless" products that make it fairly trivial for homes and businesses to take advantage of cellular wireless service from the comfort of their existing analog telephone jacks.

The term "fixed wireless" means just that—wireless appliances that sit on a desk or in a closet instead of being carried around in your hand like a cell phone. The emerging class of "fixed wireless" appliances are black boxes and desktop phones that use cell phone carriers such as Sprint, Verizon, Cingular and T-Mobile to provide voice service for your home or business.

I recently reviewed one of Telulars units, a "Fixed Wireless Terminal," which is a fancy name for a cell phone built into a small black box. But unlike handheld cell phones, the Telular unit—the "Phonecell SX5e GSM/GPRS Fixed Wireless Terminal" to be exact—is optimized to sit on a table instead of being carried around.

The roughly 7-by-2-by-8-inch box transmits with 1 and 2 watt power on the GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) 900, 1800 and 1900 bands. It has a TNC antenna connector with a fat dipole antenna, which gives it better range than any handheld cell phone.

But just like any cell phone, when you purchase a Telular unit, you have to go to your local cell service store and have your unit "activated" with cell service and a phone number (Telular has service agreements with AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint in the United States and is working on Verizon).

From AT&T Wireless point of view, the unit is just another cell phone, and thus it uses a standard cell phone agreement. That means the unit can be a second phone on an existing cell phone plan, which can make it fairly economical to own and use. Begging comparison with handheld GSM cell phones, the unit even has a little slot where you can insert your GSM SIM card.

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