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But They Never Say 'Can You Hear Me Now?'

Monty Solomon (
Mon, 25 Dec 2006 13:18:28 -0500

But they never say 'Can you hear me now?'
Cellphone firms say tests ensure quality, data remain private

By Carolyn Y. Johnson, Globe Staff | December 25, 2006

WESTBOROUGH -- In real life, the "Can you hear me now?" guy never
actually utters the catchphrase.

Instead, Verizon Wireless engineer Marc Lefevre logs 3,000 miles a
month on New England highways while an arsenal of phones in the
backseat makes calls, playing recordings of phrases like, "These days
a chicken leg is a rare dish," while the computer on the other end of
the line analyzes audio quality.

All of the major cellphone carriers use drive tests to find dead
zones, map signal strength, and count dropped calls. And all claim to
offer superior service. Verizon Wireless boasts "the most reliable
wireless network," Cingular Wireless claims "the fewest dropped
calls," and the Sprint Nextel network calls itself "the nation's most
powerful network."

But the copious data gathered by the companies is not available to
consumers, and advertising claims based on studies by third parties
have led to contentious legal battles. Last week, state Senator
Michael W. Morrissey, a Boston Democrat, began a push for more

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