Analog Cellphones Are (Mostly) Dead

The lovely-sounding “analog sunset” — the day that the government allows phone companies to shut down their analog networks—is today.

From InfoWorld:

The biggest U.S. mobile operators, AT&T Wireless and Verizon Wireless, will close down their analog networks that day. At the same time, AT&T will turn off its first digital network, which uses TDMA (Time-Division Multiple Access) technology. (Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile USA don’t have analog networks.) Calls to some small, rural mobile operators indicated that most of them plan to shut down AMPS, too.

There aren’t many mobile phones out there that will go dark after the analog sunset, according to the big carriers, which have been warning subscribers about the change for months and offering them incentives to switch over.

“We’re talking about a very, very small number of customers here,” said AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel.

We have gotten a few complaints from people who prefer analog cellphones and have held on to them despite the fact that they knew this day would eventually come. We’ll probably get some more. Hi ho.

Anyone want to start a band with me called “Analog Sunset?” We could like, rock.

Most analog cellular to fade away on Monday [InfoWorld]


Edit Your Comment

  1. CumaeanSibyl says:

    I’ll play cowbell.

  2. sleze69 says:

    This also affects a lot of security systems…

  3. Jozef says:

    I’ve got a few friends who over the past two years discontinued their cell phone accounts after their analog phones stopped working. One nice thing about the “sunset” was a gradual degradation of service (especially for those who were grandfathered into Cingular upon the purchase of AT&T Wireless), and the users slowly got used to not to use their phones. They are not all that interested in jumping back on the cell phone bandwagon. In a sense I envy them…

  4. evslin says:

    Holy crap, I had that Fisher Price record player when I was a kid.

  5. GC says:

    What’s that sound I hear? Oh, it’s the sound of obsolescence.

    If anybody is upset about their analog cell phone not working, perhaps the telcos can offer 14.4k modems as consolation prizes.

  6. gisgt says:

    Kilobauds! One more thing I need to remember to tell my kids about. Goes on the list with RAM measured in megabytes, 3.5 & 5.25 floppy disks, and tape drives that actually used cassette tapes. And I’m only 27!!!

  7. forgottenpassword says:

    analog service has been basically dead for years here. I used to listen in on them via a police scanner that had a defect that would allow it to pick up part of the cellband that was ghosted on another band.

    Was great fun to listen in on people’s convos.

  8. u2acro says:

    That’s totally my Fisher Price record player! It’s still in my old room at Mom’s, complete with the soundtracks for Star Wars and Annie and albums from Disney, the Bangles and Cyndi Lauper! :)

  9. cobaltthorium says:

    @GC: Really though. These are the same people complaining about new computers not having floppy drives.

  10. Youthier says:

    My husband finally made me ditch the analog this fall. It took me a while to switch because I didn’t really have a couple hundred bucks to drop on a new phone and I was currently not under a contract so I didn’t particularly want to sign my life away. Plus, my phone still worked for my purposes – I have a camera, I have an iPod, and I think the devil invented text messaging.

    My husband talked me into Nextel for the “free” 2-way and every time I hear that “beep-beep” my soul dies a little more.

  11. stopNgoBeau says:

    @cobaltthorium: Dammit, I NEED my floppy drive!

    In all seriousness though, I had a few engineering programs I had to go back to the distributor to get lisence keys for on memory stick when I switched to a non-floppified computer. It was quite hilarious.

  12. dreamsneverend says:

    I had to switch my ADT alarm transmitter to a digital one recently. Since I own no land line it is my only link back to the alarm company. It was pretty painless and although I was charged for the change over initially, but ADT recently refunded the amount.

  13. Xkeeper says:

    @cobaltthorium: The future is gonna cost more money.

    Potential injokes aside, this has been known for some time. I wonder how many customers are truly going to be affected by this…

  14. krom says:

    Dang it, I forgot to charge my Novatel brick last night, so I could make one of the last AMPS calls ever.

  15. GearheadGeek says:

    Some of the people who were “holding on” to analog phones live in rural places where they have little or not digital service. I can’t really imagine why people who didn’t need that kind of range were upset about this (I haven’t had a phone with analog capabilities for 4 years or so) but I do regularly drive through a couple of areas in the boonies where there’s no CDMA signal available. I don’t know if GSM fares any better through there, but I doubt it does.

  16. Gorky says:


    Its only going to be the cheap assed people who refuse to conform to modern society that are going to be affected. The same people who insist on using Windows 98 and will pay $300 to get their PC fixed (I see it about once a week). The same people who refuse to get digital TV, still use a rotary phone at home, use record players and VCRs, and like someone above said, complain that new PCs dont come with floppy drives.

    Personally I dont care if these people are affected. By forcing them to get modern, the rest of us can have a more pleasurable life because we dont need to be held back in advancing technology because others dont want to.

  17. joemama321 says:

    To the floppy haters:

    To the best of my knowledge, you still can’t easily add RAID drivers to a Windows XP system setup without a floppy disk.

    And if not upgrading to Vista makes me some sort of Luddite, so be it.

    Long live the floppy.

    The analog cell phone, however, can die.

  18. jaffa-cake says:

    @evslin: Me too! It’s really the only reason I clicked on this from my rss reader.

  19. moviemoron says:

    How do you know if you have analog or digital? Whats the difference between the 2?

  20. hornrimsylvia says:

    i’ll play guitar on loopstation! i think we should also sample some analog tv static from half tuned in/half tuned out tv stations before those goes away too.

  21. Gorky says:


    Most good motherboards have raid setup in the BIOS and the raid drivers for XP can be used from a USB flash drive.

  22. joemama321 says:

    @Gorky: Sorry. I’m thinking of SATA drivers. All I know is that on my first build, I couldn’t get anything running without pirating a floppy drive from another machine to get files from windows setup CD to my HDD. My only SATA ports on the MB were on the RAID controller, hence my earlier mis-post. Sorry this is off-topic.

  23. Sherryness says:

    I could totally be wrong, because I’m not that savvy on this stuff, but I had always thought that analog was supposed to offer better sound quality but couldn’t be used to transfer digital “stuff” like text messages, pictures, internet access, etc. It seems that sound quality has been spurned for digital capabilities. I would prefer analog, if I’m right about the better sounds quality, because it seems like it’s become harder and harder to understand people over cell phones.

  24. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    Will analog phones still contact 911?!?

    I always liked the idea that a phone with no service provider can still contact 911, and my old analog Nokia’s have great standby battery life.

  25. GearheadGeek says:

    @Sherryness: Analog was “spurned” because it’s possible to carry more calls in the same amount of spectrum on a tower with digital.

    @AlteredBeast: I think that they’re actually turning off the analog reception at towers, so nothing would be “listening” for an analog phone’s call, so no 911. I’m not certain that’s the case, but if they’re trying to free spectrum on their towers for more digital calls that’s the path they’d take.

  26. IrisMR says:

    *Points picture* Hey! I had that thing!!!

    Sweet memories.

  27. MrSpaz says:

    I had an analog cell phone until November (Motorola Micro-Tac Elite), when I received a letter from AT&T telling me “you’re not on a contract, so we’re just gonna drop you unless you switch to digital.” I had purchased the phone in 1997 and never had a problem with it.

    One of the reasons I kept it as long as I did was the fact that it worked *everywhere.* My job has me driving all over the central Florida area, and there was never a spot I couldn’t place a call. Now that I have a super-wonderful (not) digital phone, I hit dead zones all the time. My other complaint:

    (Typical phone call from the sticks, analog): [static] Hey man, I need you to check this address for me, ok? [/static]
    (The same call, digital): H[…silence…] an, I[…silence…] ud[…silence…] … [line drops].

    It drives me crazy every damn time. I’ve considered building an illegal amplifier for the new phone, but I think it might be something they’d catch me with fairly quickly. I’ll have to research it some more. ;)

  28. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    There was nothing wrong with AMPS service, and in some very rural locations where towers are few and far between, it’s the only thing that would work. There’s a big range difference between a 3-watt bag phone and a modern CDMA transceiver.

    The only reason why the FCC and the cell companies pushed to have AMPS shut down is that it’s inefficient (1 call/RF channel pair). You can cram many calls down the same RF pipeline where you could have only one before. From the FCC’s standpoint, it’s a waste of spectrum, and from the provider’s standpoint, they can make lots more $$$$$ buy utilizing that frequency spectrum for CDMA.

    Just because technology is “old” doesn’t mean it’s bad. At least when an analog signal broke up, you could still tell what the guy on the other end was saying; you got static but the call didn’t drop. I can’t say that for CDMA.

  29. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    @MrSpaz: Exactly.

  30. FLConsumer says:

    @joemama321: You still can’t install RAID drivers on Windows Server 2003 without a floppy drive. I had fun digging around the office trying to find a floppy drive I could borrow for the sole purpose of loading a 14KB driver. Thank you Microsoft for your “innovative” and forward-looking thinking! I believe Vista’s their first OS which allows you to put the drivers on floppy, CD, or USB drive. Not sure ‘though. My only real experience with Vista is uninstalling it and installing XP when people accidentally bought a computer w/Vista instead of XP.

    @Gorky: WinXP won’t take a pen-drive driver at install boot-time. Tried it many times. I still keep a couple of floppy drives in storage for this purpose. FWIW, GOOD RAIDs don’t come on a motherboard.

    Kinda funny that they’re shutting down analog this week. I just stumbled across my original analog brick phone this weekend when I was cleaning out a few things. Hooked it up to the cigarette lighter charger and it still powers up and works. Can’t say that about most phones that are >3 years old now.

  31. Sherryness says:

    Ah, ok, quantity over quality. Great.

  32. FLConsumer says:

    @Grrrrrrrrr: FWIW, there are 3 watt CDMA bag phones out there. Alltel has them as special-order devices, but they do carry them.

  33. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    @FLConsumer: I could use one of those. In spite of living 12 miles from the state capital, my CDMA phone is barely usable from my house.

  34. Scazza says:

    Hey Analog lovers, Canada still has a few more months to go, so get your butts up here to enjoy beautiful analog country!…

  35. GearheadGeek says:

    @Grrrrrrrrr: If you use Sprint, they have a gizmo for you. []

  36. SpdRacer says:

    @FLConsumer: Yeah, we make a killing changing from Vista to XP, cause in M$’s infinite wisdom, there is no downgrade for vista home to xp home, so we get to wipe and reload. (You supposedly can downgrade Vista Pro to XP Pro, but haven’t had anyone dumb enough to buy Vista Pro, to find out)

  37. mike says:

    Hmm… I know a lot of safe shelters that have given away hold cell phones for the very fact that people can call 911 on them without being on a plan.

    I say grab a pay as you go phone.

  38. n/a says:

    get a glammed up picture of meg marco and this band would be a epic sell.

  39. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    @GearheadGeek: That’s pretty neat, except Sprint doesn’t cover my town. Cool concept, though.
    @FLConsumer: I didn’t know that. You can get amplfiers and BDA’s for CDMA phones from Wilson Electronics and I’ll probably eventually install my own BDA (bidirectional amplifier) like they do in municipal and commercial buildings buildings.


  40. youwantedahero says:

    @GearheadGeek: isn’t this basically the same thing as the T-Mobile @ home service?

  41. FLConsumer says:

    @Grrrrrrrrr: Yep, I’ve installed a couple of the Wilson repeaters at one of the buildings I work at. We had great reception at the building until the 2004 hurricanes which did a number on the towers. When the cell cos put them back up, coverage patterns weren’t the same. After months of filing trouble tickets with Verizon & Nextel, it was just easier to throw a few repeaters in the building and call it a day.

    Seriously ‘though, the CDMA bag phones are awesome. Only got to use one for a day or so, but they’re even better now than they used to be.

  42. Rusted says:

    @Gorky: I recently went from W2000Pro to XP-PRO. Same thing but the bells and whistles are in different places. Despise it already.

    Floppies can be useful in jump-starting a mostly dead machine and getting around certain install requirements. Been there, done that.

    Digital TV, nah, don’t need it. Don’t watch the analog version either. Rot your brains.

  43. GearheadGeek says:

    @youwantedahero: As near as I can tell, the t-mobile @home plan requires that you have a voip phone (one of their Hotspot phones) whereas the Sprint device supposedly works with any CDMA phone because it acts like a mini CDMA tower. Sprint says as many as 3 phones can be using it at once, and you can restrict it to just phone numbers you approve so your neighbors won’t be using your “personal” tower.

  44. MainframeSysop says:

    I guess I am one of those people mentioned above that hasn’t “Gotten with the times”. I have had my NOKIA 5165 for 6 years now. When the phone broke, I could Ebay about 10 copies of the same phone for $20 bucks. So it saved me money. The whole purpose of this change (aside from the “better” service (which I find debatable because my On Call phone is digital and I get dropped calls all the time)) is to get consumers to spend more cash. In a day where oil is $100 a barrel or close to, and taxes are so very high, every cent helps. So today I will EBay a MOTO Q and hope I can stick with that phone for years to come. Progress.

  45. CyberSkull says:

    @gisgt: So am I.

    God I feel old.