By Jody MacPherson
Fort McMurray Express, May 14, 1986
Does the thought of talking on the telephone from your car sound appealing?
The field service manager at Alberta Government Telephones (AGT) says mobile telephones might soon be as common as telephones in the home.
Merv Young says about 500 vehicles in Fort McMurray are already equipped with the cellular telephones and “the sky’s the limit” as far as the automatic telephones go.
AGT has just launched an aggressive ad campaign to attract more customers to automatic cellular telephones which do not require assistance from a mobile operator.
The cellular telephone is a two-piece unit with a handset which is slightly larger than a regular telephone. The second part of the unit is more bulky and is usually stored in the car trunk.
The only drawback to the telephone is their cost, almost $4,00 per unit. Young says the prices will have to drop for the average person to afford it.
“In the big cities in Eastern Canada and the United States, the prices are starting to come down into the $2,000 range,” he says.
Young says the market for the automatic mobile telephone is picking up speed since they were introduced in Fort McMurray two years ago.
“We’re marketing it by saying having a phone in your car is just as important as having one in your home, and people are buying it,” says Young.
Manual mobile phones have been in use at the plant sites north of the city for some time,” but Young says the units are not suitable for the smaller companies.
He says the caller must go through an operator in the manual system and may not be the only person on the channel at the time. This system is used by the oil companies and others in remote areas, says Young.
The automatic system is fully private and the caller can not be interrupted. It is more suitable for the heavily populated areas, says Young.
Alberta is on a different frequency from the rest of North America, but for the user, Young says the system is virtually the same.
The cellular telephones each have a phone number beginning with 551 and can be dialed directly from a normal phone for 24 cents a minute. Long distance charges are the same as a normal phone.
The telephones are called cellular because of the use of cells to divide up common space. On a map, Young says the cells would look like honeycombs covering about 20 miles each. At the centre of each cell there is a base station which has the necessary antennas to pick up the signals.
“It’s really a technological trick to get more use of the spectrum,” says Young.
The highway from Fort McMurray to Edmonton is covered by a network of cells so that people can be reached by telephone while on the road.
Young says real estate agents and construction companies are the biggest users of the automatic cellular telephones.
The telephones can be obtained from AGT’s Fort McMurray office, or through it’s (sic) office in Edmonton.