The Cell Phone Handbook: Everything You Wanted to Know about Wireless Telephony (But Didn't Know Whom or What to Ask)

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Cellular phones have gone from a "gee whiz" curiosity to an indispensable communications link for more than 70 million U.S. subscribers. Despite cell phones' enormous popularity, it has been difficult to get reliable, objective information on which to base purchases and maximize performance. Until now. This book will answer questions such as:
  • What's the difference between analog and digital cellular, and ...
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Cellular phones have gone from a "gee whiz" curiosity to an indispensable communications link for more than 70 million U.S. subscribers. Despite cell phones' enormous popularity, it has been difficult to get reliable, objective information on which to base purchases and maximize performance. Until now. This book will answer questions such as:
  • What's the difference between analog and digital cellular, and which is best for me?
  • What's the difference between GSM, TDMA, PACS, and CDMA?
  • Which carriers are available in what cities, and how do I choose one?
  • What is PCS, and how is it different from regular cellular?
  • How does the service by Nextel fit into the picture?
  • How do I transmit fax, e-mail, and data over cellular?
  • How do I know what rate plan is best for me?
This book will give you a solid understanding of wireless technologies so you can make an informed purchase decision the next time you buy wireless equipment or services. You will also get an insider's view of how the industry works and where it's headed.

About the Author:

Penelope Stetz has worked in the wireless industry for over ten years selling cellular phones directly to end-users. As one of Motorola's top cellular salesmen, she was nominated in 1993 for Salesman of the Year for all Pan American Cellular Sales. She also helped develop Motorola's Data-on-Cellular training manual, video and CD-ROM as contributing editor. Today, Penny operates her consulting firm, PhoneTech Wireless Consultants (, and resides in Euclid, Ohio.

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Editorial Reviews

Offers general readers objective information on which to base cell phone purchases and maximize performance. Traces the history of cellular phones, explains how wireless telephony works and how to acquire wireless equipment and service, and discusses essentials of roaming, fraud, using wireless phones for data, and accessories. Includes a chapter of frequently asked questions, plus many appendices on manufacturers, market areas, and carriers. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781890154127
  • Publisher: Aegis Publishing Group, Ltd.
  • Publication date: 6/25/1999
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 5.55 (w) x 8.51 (h) x 0.77 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 5: Fraud


What is it? How do the thieves do it? Although there are different types of wireless telephony fraud, the most prevalent is cloning of an analog cellular phone. Here's how it works. A thief uses special scanning equipment to listen for your mobile phone number and ESN to be transmitted to the carrier (which occurs when you turn on your phone, when you make a call, or any time your phone autonomously registers). Then he reprograms the information into an older analog phone. Only phones manufactured prior to 1995 have ESNs that can be reprogrammed, The thief then sells the "cloned" phone, and the buyer uses the phone until it stops working. Cloned phones are typically used outside your home market because the local carrier can easily detect when two phones with the same information are being used on its switch at the same time.

You know you've been cloned when you see an outrageous phone bill, where your mastery of space/time travel is evidenced by the fact that you placed roaming calls from two different markets at the same time! It is also obvious to the carrier that your phone was cloned; it can recognize the patterns. The carrier credits you for the fraudulent charges, which then become a fraud write-off to the carrier. You are issued a new phone number, and your phone is reprogrammed with this new number. This breaks the mobile number/ESN combination by matching a new mobile number to your ESN and renders the old mobile number/ESN combination useless. If keeping your mobile number is important to you, see if you can arrange to have your ESN changed.

The FCC made cloning illegal, and, in 1995, it also made altering theESN by anyone other than the manufacturer illegal. Now, the government has taken another step to crack down on cloning. In the spring of 1998, the Wireless Telephone Protection Act (H.R. 2460) passed, making it illegal to "knowingly use, produce, traffic in, have control or custody of, or possess hardware or software, knowing it has been configured for altering or modifying a telecommunications instrument so that such instrument may be used to obtain unauthorized access to telecommunications services." This means that both the customers who are buying illegally altered equipment, as well as the people who actually do the cloning, are subject to prosecution. First-time convictions are punishable by fine and/or imprisonment up to 15 years. Second convictions are punishable by fine and/or imprisonment up to 20 years.

Fraud Prevention Measures


The magnitude of fraud charges written off by carriers in the United States exceeds $1 million a day! Carriers have taken proactive approaches to reduce fraud write-offs, such as implementing usage profiles. This is a measure that raises a flag if your usage deviates from your established profile. Say, for example, you usually don't roam, or very little, and your normal usage averages 10 minutes a day. If your phone is used 60 minutes a day in a roaming market, you will probably get a call from the carrier asking if the usage is legitimate. If the carrier can't reach you, your phone number may be suspended, requiring you to call your service provider to get your phone working again. Profiling isn't limited to roaming activity. It applies to usage in your home market, as well.

Radio frequency (RF) fingerprinting

In addition to profiling, the carriers are implementing RF fingerprinting (which is switch dependent) and authentication (which is phone and switch dependent). With RF fingerprinting, each wireless phone has a unique and distinguishable RF signature. Cell site RF fingerprinting units build a wireless phone RF fingerprint of your phone by collecting data from several transmissions. This RF fingerprint is stored at the MTSO. Then, all subsequent calls you place are validated with the stored RF fingerprint information to determine if you are a legitimate subscriber. This validation process takes place before the call is actually processed so that a thief using your mobile number/ESN combination in another phone will not be able to place a call.


Authentication is being implemented on analog equipment, but it is built into digital systems. Authentication uses an A-key, which is 26 characters in length. Only the phone and the switch know the A-key. Think of it as a numeric version of your mother's maiden name. If only you and I know your mother's maiden name, and I ask you what the fifth letter is, you can tell me. A thief may have your mobile number/ESN combination, but as the Akey is never transmitted, he is unable to obtain this vital element to respond to the challenge and, therefore, is unable to place a call. Because the Akey is 26 characters long and contains numbers, the switch has an endless variety of challenges for the phone. The challenge occurs when you initiate a call and takes only seconds to complete.

PIN codes

A fraud deterrent that has been around for a few years is the use of a PIN code. PIN codes can be used several ways. Some carriers require you to dial the PIN code immediately following your outbound number each time you place a call, so your dialing sequence will be: 1-800-555-1212 SEND (stuttered dial tone) 1234 (PIN code) SEND.

Other carriers require you to "open" your phone use by dialing *560-XXXX (the Xs are your fourdigit PIN) SEND. Then you "close" your usage when you are finished making calls by dialing *56 SEND. Sometimes carriers require you to establish a PIN code that will be used only when you roam. Usually, you are prompted for the PIN code the first time you try to place a call in the roaming market. Depending on the market and the relationship between the carriers, this may be the only time you are prompted to enter your PIN code for the duration of your visit. On the other hand, you may need to reenter it with the first call you make each day you are roaming.

Subscriber Fraud

As fraud-deterrent measures are implemented in analog cellular and as digital service becomes more available, cloning is less accessible to the thief. A growing kind of fraud being perpetrated on wireless carriers is subscriber fraud. In this case, someone subscribes to a carrier for wireless service with no intention of paying for his or her airtime charges. This is accomplished through the deliberate use of invalid or false credentials such as name, address, social security number, tax ID, etc.

What Can I Do to Prevent or Reduce My Chances of Being Cloned?

There are several steps you can take to reduce or prevent your chances of being cloned. First, pay attention to your phone bill. Sometimes cloning fraud goes on for months, gradually building up. Noticing fraudulent activity on your phone bill and report it promptly should reduce the amount of fraud charges, but won't necessarily eliminate the need to change your phone number. Second, if you are replacing your old phone and buying an analog phone, ask if it is capable of authentication and whether or not the carrier supports authentication. If it fits into your budget, consider buying a digital phone, which all but eliminates your risk of being cloned.

More information about carrier solutions to fraud can be found at CTIA's Web site ( /professional/fraud)....

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Table of Contents


Three Types of Wireless Phones

Getting the Most Out of This Book

  • What this book will do for you
  • What this book won┬╣t do for you

How To Use This Book

  • If you are a first-time buyer
  • If you are an existing user
  • As a general reference
  • Icons


From Car Phones To Cellular Phones

  • AMPS
  • TDMA
  • CDMA
  • GSM-NA
  • PACS
  • PCS
  • Nextel

Looking Ahead
  • Terrestrial wireless systems
  • Wireless local loop
  • Satellite wireless telephony
  • Atmospheric alternatives


Basic Concepts of Wireless Telephony
The System

  • Registration and autonomous registration
  • Power levels
  • Handoffs
  • Dropped calls and system holes
  • Dealing with capacity overload-how 800 MHz ended up with two digital technologies

The Phone
  • What happens when I turn my phone on?
  • What happens when I place a call?
  • What happens when I receive a call?
  • What happens when I hang up?
  • Phone features

Subscribing To a Carrier
Coverage Areas and How They Are Assigned
What Is My "Home" Market?
Understanding the Carrier/Agent, Dealer/Customer Relationship
How Do I Interface With the Carriers?
Over-the-Air Activation

Where Do I Buy It?

  • Cellular
  • PCS
  • Nextel
    Choosing a Phone
    • Should I buy a new phone, and why?
    • What kind of phone should I get?
    • Decide on a phone format
    • Where do I start?
    • First-time buyer
    • Feature details
      Choosing a Carrier
      • Cost of airtime
      • Security user
      • Light user
      • Medium user
      • Heavy user
      • Poweruser
      • Least-cost-per-month access fees
      • Least-cost-per-minute usage
      • Carrier considerations

      The Final Score
      Rate Plan Analysis
      • Do the math! Calculate your savings

      Replacing Your Equipment

      4. ROAMING
      What Is Roaming?
      Making and Receiving Calls While Roaming

      • Outbound roaming calls
      • Inbound roaming calls
      • 800 MHz analog cellular
      • The traditional roaming way
      • Automatic call delivery-the new and improved method
      • Nonlocal automatic call delivery
      • Nonlocal traditional roaming call

      Digital Roaming
      • Cellular-800 MHz digital roaming
      • 800 MHz CDMA roaming
      • 800 MHz TDMA roaming
      • PCS-1900 MHz roaming
      • 1900 MHz CDMA roaming
      • 1900 MHz TDMA roaming
      • 1900 MHz GSM-NA roaming
      • 1900 MHz PACS roaming
      • Nextel roaming

      Enhanced Roaming Features
      • Call delivery
      • International roaming
      • North American Cellular Network (NACN)
      • Enhanced home network

      5. FRAUD

      • What is it? How do the thieves do it?

      Fraud Prevention Measures
      • Profiling
      • Radio frequency (RF) fingerprinting
      • Authentication
      • PIN codes

      Subscriber Fraud
      What Can I Do to Prevent or Reduce My Chances of Being Cloned?

      Circuit-Switched Data

      • Performance expectations

      Cellular Digital Packet Data (CDPD)
      General Packet Radio Services


      • Battery details
      • Nickel cadmium batteries
      • Nickel metal hydride batteries
      • Lithium ion batteries
      • Sealed lead-acid batteries
      • Battery summary
      • The most frequently asked battery question
      • The future of batteries

      Cigarette Lighter Adapters
      Hands-Free Adapters

      8. EXTRAS
      Wireless Phone Etiquette
      One Phone, One Number, Anywhere!
      Enhanced 9-1-1
      Equal Access For Long Distance
      North American Numbering Plan
      Local Number Portability

      Are cellular phones safe to use (for my health)?
      How can I prevent my wireless phone number from being read on caller ID devices?
      What is a NAM (number assignment module)?
      What information should I know about my wireless phone, and why?
      What should I do if I lose my phone?
      What is a SID?
      How does my phone know that I am in my home market?
      Why does my phone say NO SERVICE when I first turn it on?
      Why do my calls drop?
      Why doesn't my phone retain the feature changes I made?
      Why do I lose my signal when I go into a building or drive into a garage or valley?
      Why do I get a system-busy indication when I should have service (or have had service in the same area before)?
      Sometimes my call gets very staticky, and then it clears up. What happened here?
      How can I have a digital phone on an analog system?
      How does cellular compare to the new PCS services available?
      Why can't I use my phone out of town?
      What is dual NAM?
      Subscribing to more than one system-why would I want to?
      Which carrier is offering dual NAM in my market?
      Can I have one number on two phones?
      How do I erase a stored number?
      My car kit drains my car's battery. Why?
      What can I do about it?
      What about cellular in other countries?
      Can I use a wireless phone on an airplane?
      Where can I rent a wireless phone?

      Appendix A-Equipment Manufacturers
      Appendix B-Resources

      • Satellite Companies
      • Phone Rental Companies
      • Miscellaneous Companies
      • Wireless Organizations
      • Wireless Publications
      • Mail Order Companies
      • National Resellers

      Appendix C-Cellular Market Areas
      • MSA Numerical Market Listing
      • MSA/RSA Map
      • RSA Numerical Market Listing

      Appendix D-PCS Market Areas
      • MTA Numerical Market Listing
      • MTA Map
      • BTA Numerical Market Listing
      • BTA Map

      Appendix E-Nextel Coverage Areas
      • Nextel Market Listing
      • Nextel Map

      Appendix F-Carrier Information
      • Carriers
      • Carriers by Market, Channel Block, and Technology
      • Carrier Name Abbreviations

        Appendix G-Frequency Charts
        • Frequencies of Wireless Phone Systems
        • Cellular-Transmit and Receive
        • PCS-Transmit and Receive
        • Nextel-Transmit and Receive



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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2000

    Excellent, Clear Presentation

    Penelope Stetz ably covers a lot of ground, clearly describing cell phone technology as well as the pros and cons of various types of wireless equipment and services. This book is a model of how to explain a technical subject for both beginners and experienced users.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2000

    The Cell Phone Handbook

    A MUST read for anyone who wants to know a little or a lot about cellular service. The Cell Phone Handbook can give you all the information, (and then some,) that you need to become a knowledgeable member of the wireless phenom. If you happen to be in the cellular industry then as a reference guide it can't be beat as it is also more than the basics. From basics to advanced the education you gain from this book will make it well worth the money. Well written and succinct. The GLOSSARY alone makes this book a bargain!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 1999

    Comprehensive, insightful, and fun to read

    This book is a very well written and in-depth treatment of cellular telephony technology. Not only does it provide extensive coverage of the basics of cell phone technology, it also covers more advanced topics such as roaming and zoning. If you've been unfortunate enough to fall into the trap of a cell phone service provider with a '$20/month' plan and soon realized that you're trapping footing $60/month bills for your service, you'll soon realize why this book is is also very practical. I love the way the author discusses (p.75) the process of making service choices using an interactive worksheet. Having taught classes on telecommunications in a business school at the university level, and having gone through the proces of making a book choice for my entire classes, I truly believe that this book is the best I've seen on the topic. A comprehensive index, a fun to read FAQ chapter (that answers questions that are sometimes even embarrasing to ask), and a clear writing stuyle make this a cool addition to my book shelf. For sure, this book is worth every dollar.

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