Wireless Portability: Distinguishing CB, Cell, Radio Communications

By Roche, Jerry | Landscape & Irrigation, March 2000 | Go to article overview

Wireless Portability: Distinguishing CB, Cell, Radio Communications


Roche, Jerry, Landscape & Irrigation


Communicating between landscape company owners, managers, office personnel, field units, and even clients is a necessity in these times of high customer expectations. And wireless communications provide the ultimate in accessibility, convenience, and flexibility.

Landscapers typically have different communications needs: some may only need one-way paging or mobile telephone service, some may need dispatch and mobile telephone.

For those on the cutting edge of technology who want the whole ball of wax, a new instrument -- unveiled just two months ago -- offers a combination of voice and wireless Internet communications with a dash- mounted LCD touch screen display. The Motorola handset can act as a digital cellular phone, digital two-way radio, and alphanumeric pager with data capabilities. From your vehicle, you can access the Internet via Nextel to send and receive e-mail messages, find driving directions to various job sites, check weather forecasts, search for inventory from suppliers, fax job quotes and specifications using a wireless modem, and hold impromptu conference calls with a built in, hands-free speakerphone. With the two-way radio function, you can instantly communicate with builders and subcontractors in your area to place orders, inquire about inventory, or check on deliveries -- at a fraction of the cost of a traditional cellular call.

Besides Motorola and Nextel, other communications providers include AT&T/Bell, GTE, Lucent, MCI Telecommunications, National Semiconductor, Nokia, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, Radio Shack, and Telcordia Technologies, among others.

The actual communications service can be purchased to operate a radio system for your own fleet, or you can purchase the service from a provider.

Citizen's Band radios

The most "generic" way to communicate is with a citizen's band (CB) radio. This system is non-proprietary, and all communications can be monitored by anyone tuned to a CB radio within listening distance -- usually one to five miles.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) provides 40 CB channels. These channels must be shared by all CB users, since no channel is assigned to any specific individual or organization. The FCC stipulates that you never talk with another station for more than five minutes at a time, and that Channel 9 be used only for emergency communications or for traveler assistance.

FCC licensing is neither needed nor issued for CB communicators. You must, however, use only an unmodified, FCC-labeled and -accepted unit. There is no age or citizenship requirement. You cannot attach any type of power amplifier to your CB unit, or modify the unit internally. (If you use your CB unit in Canada, you're subject to the rules of the Canadian Department of Communications.)

There are no height restrictions for antennas mounted on vehicles or for hand-held units. For structures, the highest point of your antenna cannot be more than 20 feet above the highest point of the building or tree on which it is mounted, or 60 feet above the ground. There are lower height limits if your antenna structure is located within two miles of an airport.

CB use rules are furnished with new units, but they can also be ordered from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Superintendent of Documents, Mail Stop SSOP, Washington, DC 20402-9328. The same rules are also available on the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr.

Pagers/beepers

Two-way dispatch uses a radio signal to merely alert or instruct the user to do something. The user carries a very small "pager" or "beeper."

A paging system with dial-in capability consists of a terminal and a radio distribution network. The terminal answers the incoming line and, based on the telephone number dialed, matches that number to the corresponding pager address stored in memory.

There are four types of paging services: tone-only, tone-voice, numeric, and alphanumeric. …

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