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Creating cellular: A history of the AMPS project (1971-1983) [History of Communications]

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2 Author(s)
Richard Frenkiel ; Wireless Information Networks Laboratory at Rutgers ; Mischa Schwartz

The article following, written by one of the lead engineers in the project, describes the development of AMPS, the first cellular telephone system in the United States. As noted, the project ran for over 12 years and required the services of a "vast number" of engineers at AT&T's Bell Labs. The hundreds of millions of people currently using cellphones, smart phones, and all the other mobile wireless equipment available in the United States, as well as everywhere else in the world, often take these devices and the infrastructure behind them for granted. Until the cellular concept was recognized, it wasn 't clear that many mobile phones could simultaneously share the same channels in a local area. With the cellular concept agreed on, problems such as tracking of cell phones and handoff from cell to cell had to be resolved. Computerized base stations had to be designed and tested. A myriad other important development and design issues and problems had to be resolved. Dick Frenkiel very clearly describes the various engineering problems that had to be solved, step by step, sometimes quite painstakingly. He gives credit to the many teams of Bell engineers who worked on this project. He also points out policy issues involving the FCC that had to be resolved. Competition for scarce radio spectral space was fierce. Competing engineering companies and telephone operators had to be assuaged. In the meantime, I urge you to read on through this exciting description of the genesis of cellular telephony in the United States.

Published in:

IEEE Communications Magazine  (Volume:48 ,  Issue: 9 )