TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Old Analog Cellular A/B Systems (Re: Cingular Surcharge)

Old Analog Cellular A/B Systems (Re: Cingular Surcharge)

Anthony Bellanga (
Sun, 06 Aug 2006 16:54:28 -0600

PAT - DO NOT display my email address anywhere in this post! Thanks.

Patrick Townson asked:

> This goes back many years, but does anyone remember when, in the
> Chicago metro area, Illinois Bell (or Ameritech) was the so-called
> "B" carrier with 'Ameritech Wireless' and Celluar One was the "A"
> carrier? But then travel down the highway toward St. Louis and it
> flip-flopped; Ameritech became the "A" carrier and SBC (doing
> business as 'Southwestern Bell Mobility') was the "B" carrier?
> I think 'B' was always the established land-line phone company
> and 'A' was the maruders, or invaders into the established telco
> territory. It was that way all over the USA, with an A/B system;
> where established telco was 'B' and whoever got the franchise
> otherwise was the 'A' side.

NO, it wasn't "always" that way -- but it was MOSTLY that way,
the "B" side analog wireless system being the wireless operation
of the incumbent landline local telephone company, and the "A"
side being the "non-wireline" wireless company.

There were several exceptions to this -- I can't think of any
specific examples offhand, maybe others can -- but there were
indeed several cases where the "wireline" cellular provider in a
particular area operated on the "A" side, and the "non-wireline"
or "radio common carrier" wireless company operated on the "B"

Most cellphone companies issued roaming booklets to the customer to
indicate whether that company (or an associated company) operated on
the "A" vs "B" side in each market, what types of roaming charges
applied, how to activate romaing, or if roaming would automatically
"turn-on" in that market, etc.

None of that seems to apply today in a digital or GSM cellular

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Actually, I _can_ think of an example:
right here in southeast Kansas. In the north eastern corner of our
state (metro Kansas City, Topeka, etc) the "B" carrier long ago was
United Telephone Company, the telco owners 'of record' in the area.
(Now of course it is known as Sprint). I do not know who was the "A"
carrier up there. But here in southeast Kansas, where we are actually
part of the 'Tulsa (business) Market' Southwestern Bell (our telco of
record in those days [and still so, largely]) did _not_ operate a
cellular system, at least not in the early days. They would have been
the "B" carrier here if they had acted on it. We had no cellular phone
service here until the middle 1990's, although I can recall using my
Ameritech Wireless 'brick phone' when I came here in 1991 to help my
mother bury my dad. Cellular phones generally did not work at all here
in town in those days (they always just said 'no service') with one
exception in my case: if I went up to the second floor in our old
house on 11th Street in one bedroom with the phone held out the window
I was able to get a slight (two or three bars) signal which I found
curious; I dialed the '0' operator and asked her who she was, she
replied she was Southwestern Bell in Tulsa, 85 miles straight south.

But I digress ... at one time, about 1999, I had a cellular phone from
Alltel here in Kansas, on the "A" side up in Junction City. I kept the
Alltel phone through my hospital stay in 2000. When I came here to
Independence after the hospital with my Alltel phone, set to the "A"
side I began getting charges from a company called 'U.S. Cellular'
billed as roaming charges. The representative from Alltel told me that
although they were on the "A" side in 'the old United Tel territory'
they had 'won the lottery for the "B" side in southeast Kansas' when
no one else had applied for it. The old AT&T was also an "A" side
carrier when they were serving us here, prior to selling out their
wireless service to Cingular. PAT]

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