U.S. Hangs Up On Analog Cell Service

February 18, 2008, was the last day for old-style analog cell service in the United States, as the Federal Communications Commission mandates shutdown of obsolete systems in order to free frequency ranges for new advances services. Although the shutdown of analog cell phone service will impact comparatively few mobile phone users (the exceptions potentially being in rural areas were equipment was never upgraded, and the range of analog gear was superior to digital replacements), the switchover may have impacts for other systems: specifically, vehicle fleet tracking and some building alarm systems.

Folks with home or building alarm systems installed during or before 2006 should confirm that their systems are hard-wired to physical phone lines or use a communication method other than analog cell systems—otherwise, the systems may stop functioning altogether, or may be blaring an alarm as you’re reading this. Although it hasn’t been common in recent years to hitch alarm systems to the analog cell network, in cases where physical lines or alternative technology wasn’t available, it was occasionally used as an interim measure until a better solution came along.

Operators of trucking and other vehicle fleets may also be impacted: although most fleet tracking has converted to GPS-based systems in recent years, even some GPS tracking systems relied on the analog cell network to transmit information back to the fleet operator. In other words, the vehicle will be able to determine where it’s located, but it won’t be able to "phone home" with the information.

And just in case switching off analog cell phones wasn’t enough, the FCC has another shutoff in store for you: on February 17, 2009, analog television broadcasts will cease in the United States.