Comcast to develop mobile phone service

September 25, 1991|By Leslie Cauley

Comcast Corp., a national cable company that sells cable television service in Baltimore County, has announced plans to develop a mobile phone service that will combine cable and cellular technologies.

If successful, the hybrid technology will represent a first for the cable television industry and a new line of business for Comcast, said Marolyn Bailey, director of investor relations for Philadelphia-based Comcast.

"It will create additional uses for the current state of cable technology," Ms. Bailey said.

According to Ms. Bailey, Comcast's product will be more powerful than regular cordless communication services, but less potent than traditional cellular service.

Most cordless phones don't allow users to roam more than a few hundred feet from the receiver. Cellular phones, by comparison, can be used over distances of several hundred miles or more.

As envisioned by Comcast, the new Personal Communication Services (PCS) network would allow customers to use pocket-sized mobile phones to place and receive calls from virtually anywhere within a 10- or 12-block area. Calls could be placed to anywhere in the world that has telephone service. A network of receivers dispersed throughout the service area would be used to sort and route calls to their final destinations.

Customers would be able to make calls while walking through shopping malls, seated at restaurants or while standing on a subway platform, places where traditional cellular technology sometimes falls flat because reception is poor.

To use the PCS, customers would have to buy a special, pocket-sized mobile phone. The phones, to be produced by Motorola Corp., will probably sell for $100 to $200, Ms. Bailey said, about the same as some of the cheaper cellular phones currently on the market.

Comcast has been granted permission by the Federal Communications Commission to conduct trials of the technology in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Trenton, N.J., West Palm Beach, Fla., Indianapolis and Los Angeles.

Initiation of field tests is contingent on development of the technology, which is "purely in the experimental stage," Ms. Bailey emphasized. Those tests are now set to conclude in January 1993.

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