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The Digital Revolution
What's new in communication technology

The world in the palm of your hand

The cellular telephone industry is undergoing a digital revolution. Digital technology is promising a national communications system with sophisticated applications such as: Fax and e-mail, Internet access, database access, vehicle locating service (which probably is not needed by most truckers since it is hard to miss a semi in a parking lot), paging service, alarm reporting, and navigation assistance. All this and more on a phone that will fit in your pocket.

Which type of cellular phone is best for your business?

John Webber, a trucker for 20 years and now a communications store owner, says a trucker cannot afford to be without some type of Personal Communications Service (PCS).

"They keep the professional trucker on top of things," he says. "The duel-band (analog/digital) at around a cost of $149, is the only choice for a trucker. You can use it from coast to coast. It wouldn't pay to have the old analog technology because you may 'roam' into an area without service."

His advice is to buy the best you can afford. The company carries analog phones at $30, or a digital phone at $380 that includes extra features such as video games (which might help pass the time if you are stuck at a warehouse waiting on a load).

Samsung just introduced their newest digital wireless phone with voice-activated dialing. You say the word and the phone dials the number. Their SCH-2010 model also features voice memo, ten different ring options including a silent vibrate alert, long life battery and caller ID.

Differences in phone technology

Analog cell phones have only the capability to make voice transmissions. On the plus side, they are cheaper, but the service is more expensive and they offer less features. These phones work well if used locally, but you may need an accountant to decipher your phone bill if you use it frequently while trucking across states. Companies such as Southwestern Bell and Sprint offer nationwide coverage, though the roaming charges may vary greatly from area to area.

Digital is the newest cell phone technology. Digital phones offer faster speeds than analog and clearer sound. These cell phones can support anywhere from 3 to 12 transmissions per channel at 1900 MHz. They also have the ability to transmit voice, numeric and text data across radio waves. Digital phones have a longer battery life and some can even act as a pager. You will probably pay between $129 and $169 for digital but the extra features make it a good choice. In other words, these phones are used exactly like your phone at home. No roaming charges! For instance, Sprint offers three nationwide service plans from $69 to $149 per month. These plans include call waiting, caller ID, three-way calling and long distance service. With all the new technology, most digital phones remain basic in color. Sprint spokesman Frank Matteson said, "Well, it's like Henry Ford said, 'You can have any color you like as long as it's black.'"

More cell technology: The digital edge

For your business needs, the digital technology promises to place you on the leading edge. The Norstar company has a phone with a liquid crystal display window that will "walk" you through its features like customized greetings and conference calls. AT&T's PocketNet (PockNet) service uses cellular data links to converge a web browser with on a three-line cell phone screen. This phone is not for everyone. It costs $299 plus a $19.99 data transmission charge and a calling plan service charge.

Cellular offers special services through providers such as Comcast Connect. Just dial *123 for restaurant connections, movie reviews and more. Get this. You can even dial up a soap opera update. Their *4263 features the latest sports news and scores. However, they can charge up to 75 cents a minute for their service.

And it gets better. Even baseball and football park concession stands are taking orders via digital phone. The customer pays, the order is transmitted to the concession stand where it is printed out, filled, and delivered back to the correct customer. Could this mean the end of the beer man? LL -Donna Carlson

July Digital Edition