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Wireless Service Technicians

History

The concept of cellular communication, as it is used today, was developed by Bell Laboratories in the late 1940s. However, it was based on a much older concept: using radio waves to transmit signals over distances. The concept of communicating via radio waves dates back to the late 1800s, when Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi discovered that radio signals could be transmitted for more than a mile. By 1905, many ships at sea were routinely using Marconi's invention to communicate with the shore.

Cellular radio, which is essentially today's cellular phone service, was first tested in two U.S. markets in the 1970s. This system, a miniature version of large radio networks, was named "cellular" because its broadcast area is divided into smaller units called cells. Each cell was equipped with its own radio tower, with a range of between 1 and 2.5 miles. As a mobile "radiophone" moved through the network of cells, its calls were switched from one cell to another by a computerized system. As long as the radiophone stayed within this network of cells, wireless communication was possible; once outside the system of cells, however, the connection was lost. After its initial tests in Chicago and Washington, D.C., the cellular network was soon duplicated in other towns and cities. As more and more areas throughout the country became "covered" with these networks of cells, it became possible to use cellular phones in more places, and the use of these phones became increasingly widespread.

In 1981, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that the wireless industry would be regulated. By FCC orders, only two competing wireless service providers could be licensed to operate in each geographic market. The FCC also announced that it would begin licensing in 306 large metropolitan areas first. Licensing in rural service areas would come shortly thereafter. As licensing got underway and cellular service was provided in more areas, the number of wireless service users grew at a rapid pace. By the end of the 1980s, there were almost 4 million cellular subscribers in the United States. By 1992, there were more than 10 million users, 9,000 cell sites, and 1,500 cellular systems throughout the country.

Also in 1992, Ameritech began the country's first commercial trials of digital wireless technology. Digital wireless technology changed the voice to numeric computer code before transmitting it, providing better sound quality and clarity than the traditional, or analog, cellular technology, which carried the voice through radio waves. With continued improvements, digital technology has largely replaced analog cellular technology.

The wireless industry experienced a major change in 1993, when the Omnibus Reconciliation Act was passed. This legislation opened up competition among wireless providers by allowing as many as nine wireless companies to operate in a single market, instead of the two that were previously allowed. With the rapid growth of wireless service throughout the United States, there has been an increased need for qualified, trained people to manage and service the equipment. Each cell site for each wireless carrier requires constant maintenance and troubleshooting to ensure that wireless coverage is not interrupted. The responsibility for maintaining this highly important and expensive equipment is the job of the wireless service technician—a key player in the wireless industry.

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