PERSONAL COMMUNICATIONS SERVICES

Personal Communications Services (PCS) encompasses a range of advance wireless mobile technologies and services. It promises to permit communications to anyone, anyplace, and anytime while on the move. The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) defines PCS as a "wide range of wireless mobile technologies, chiefly cellular, paging, cordless voice, personal communications networks, mobile data, wireless PBX, specialized mobile radio, and satellite-based systems." The FCC defines PCS as a "family of mobile or portable radio communications services that encompass mobile and ancillary fixed communications services to individuals and businesses and ca be integrated with a variety of competing networks." However, in the wireless industry, PCS is commonly recognized as the nascent systems proposed to provide competition (see below) to cellular, and perhaps to wireline telephone services.

The PCS offerings are divided into three categories: narrowband, broadband, and unlicensed. It is expected that initially, providers will offer different services in each of the three areas.

Narrowband PCS, licensed by the FCC at two auctions during 1994, will likely provide advanced voiced paging and messaging, acknowledgment paging, data messaging, one- and two-way electronic messaging, and facsimile. Most of the licensees are already providing paging or other mobile telecommunications services. The spectrum allocation for narrowband PCS is the 900 MHz band adjacent to the spectrum currently being used for paging and special mobile radio (SMR) applications. While Advanced paging services appear to be the most likely application, narrowband PCS is also capable of being used as a locator service to pinpoint the position of an object or vehicle.

Broadband PCS has been called "the next generation of mobile telephone service." Broadband will offer two-way voice, data, and video communications. The spectrum allocation for broadband is in the 1850 to 1990 MHz range which is seperated from other communication services. Therefore, equipment will have to be designed for that frequency range. The FCC alllocated 120 MHZ to broadband in six bands - Blocks A,B, and C each containing thirty MHz, and Blocks D, E, and F each containing ten Mhz.

The first auction for broadband: PCS Blocks A and B was completed earlier this year in March. Most auction winners are companies established in the cellular business. The joint venture which won the largest number of auctions includes Sprint and three large cable television companies, Tele-Communications Inc., Comcast Corp., and Cox Communications Inc. According to a June 15th Wall Street Journal article, in early June, Sprint announced it is seeking buyers for its cellular business, indicating that it intends to bet all of its chips on PCS. Blocks C and D of the licenses for broadband PCS were originally set aside for Designated Entities (DEs- small businesses, women, minorities and rural telephone companies) to ensure that these groups would have had the opportunity to participate in providing PCS services. However, in light of a recent Supreme Court decision on affirmative action that provision has been revoked.

Unlicensed PCS will accommodate a wide range of services for small areas such as data networking within office buildings with wireless Local Area Networks (LANs), wireless private branch exchanges (PBXs), personal digital assistants, laptop computers, portable facsimile machines, wireless replacements for portions of the wireline telephone network, and other kinds of short-range communications. Terminal devices will be a new generation of cordless telephones that operate without centralized base stations and will be limited to very low power and range enabling spectrum to be reused efficiently. Unlicensed PCS is particularly suitable for office-wide and campus-wide services. In addition, equipment manufacturers do not have to wait for the development of standards since they can design proprietary products for their clients. The FCC has allocated spectrum for unlicensed PCS in the 1910 to 1930 MHZ band.