Advanced Mobile Phone System

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Advanced Mobile Phone System (AMPS) was an analog mobile phone system standard developed by Bell Labs, and officially introduced in the Americas in 1983,[1][2] Israel in 1986, and Australia in 1987.[3] It was the primary analog mobile phone system in North America (and other locales) through the 1980s and into the 2000s. As of February 18, 2008, carriers in the United States were no longer required to support AMPS and companies such as AT&T and Verizon have discontinued this service permanently. AMPS was discontinued in Australia in September 2000.[3]

Contents

Technology

AMPS was a first-generation cellular technology that uses separate frequencies, or "channels", for each conversation (see FDMA). It therefore required considerable bandwidth for a large number of users. In general terms, AMPS was very similar to the older "0G" Improved Mobile Telephone Service, but used considerably more computing power in order to select frequencies, hand off conversations to PSTN lines, and handle billing and call setup.

What really separated AMPS from older systems is the "back end" call setup functionality. In AMPS, the cell centers could flexibly assign channels to handsets based on signal strength, allowing the same frequency to be re-used in various locations without interference. This allowed a larger number of phones to be supported over a geographical area. AMPS pioneers fathered the term "cellular" because of its use of small hexagonal "cells" within a system.[4][5]

It suffered from some weaknesses when compared to today's digital technologies. Since it was an analog standard, it is very susceptible to static and noise and has no protection from eavesdropping using a scanner. In the 1990s, "cloning" was an epidemic that cost the industry millions of dollars. An eavesdropper with specialized equipment could intercept a handset's ESN (Electronic Serial Number) and MIN (Mobile Identification Number, aka the telephone number). An Electronic Serial Number is a packet of data which is sent by the handset to the cellular system for billing purposes, effectively identifying that phone on the network. The system then allows or disallows calls and or features based on its customer file. If an ESN/MIN Pair is intercepted, it could then be cloned onto a different phone and used in other areas for making calls without paying.

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