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national telecommunications network. Wireless already reaches across the United States, with hundreds of wireless companies competing to offer voice and data services, innovative applications, and value to millions of consumers. These hundreds of wireless service providers have been developing, funding, and deploying a wireless NII for over 10 years, since the first cellular system began operating in October 1983.

For all of that, wireless has almost been the secret success story—perhaps because it is the success of private enterprise. Over the past 12 months, there have been 19,043 references to the NII or the information superhighway in the media 4. Of those stories, only 2,139 mentioned wireless or cellular. Of course, the reality is sinking in that the NII—or the information superhighway—is and must be more than a high-fiber diet (of fiber optic cable and other hard-wired systems). The reality is that people are mobile, and mobility implies being wireless. But being fixed does not necessarily mean being wired. Indeed in many environments—urban and rural—fixed services are better delivered by wireless technology than by wired technology.

CTIA, as the industry association for wireless providers—ranging from cellular to enhanced specialized mobile radio (ESMR), satellite, and personal communication services (PCS)—has been relentless in pressing this message. CTIA and its members also have been relentless in making it a reality. Indeed, the CTIA Foundation for Wireless Telecommunications has cosponsored and cofunded wireless education and wireless medical projects across the country (Box 1 gives two examples) 5.

Increasingly, wireless is being recognized as a vital part of the NII. This forum is one example of that recognition. Last year the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Committee on Applications and Technology requested—and received—comment on the demand for an NII, and on the role of wireless in the NII 6. The Office of Technology Assessment issued a report on "Wireless Technologies and the NII" in August 1995. This recognition, however, is only the beginning of the battle.

BOX 1 Examples of CTIA-sponsored Wireless Projects

Wireless at Work in Education

On May 2, 1995, the CTIA Foundation, Bell Atlantic Mobile, and Cellular One donated state-of-the-art wireless telecommunications systems to two elementary schools in the District of Columbia. The ClassLinkSM initiative intends to improve education by bringing wireless telecommunications and information to now-isolated classrooms, allowing schools to link with the Internet via wireless modems.

Wireless at Work in Medicine

The CTIA Foundation is funding a project at New York's Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center where wireless is providing a system of coordinated care to tuberculosis patients. The project, done in conjunction with the New York City Department of Health and the Visiting Nurse Services of New York City, enables visiting nurses equipped with laptop computers and wireless modems to treat patients in their homes.

Most of the wireless components of the NII—cellular, ESMR, and PCS—require the deployment of cell sites as their basic building blocks. These sites comprise antennas and towers, as well as base station equipment. The cellular industry alone, composed of two carriers per market, constructed almost 15,000 cell sites between 1983 and 1994. By the end of 1994, almost 18,000 cell sites had been constructed (Figure 1).

As Figure 2 indicates, cell sites have traditionally supported service to between 1,000 and 1,200 users per site. As the number of subscribers increases, the number of cell sites must likewise increase in order to meet demand and preserve service quality.

Another 15,000 cell sites may be required for cellular systems alone in the next 10 years, based on the projections of Barry Goodstadt of EDS Management Consulting that cellular might achieve subscriber levels between 38.2 million and 55.1 million by 2006 7. (Although the deployment of digital technology might reduce the absolute number of additional cell sites required to meet demand because of capacity restrictions, the number of cell sites required must still increase in order to improve geographic coverage. Thus, the precise number of such cell sites is a matter of speculation and is not definitively predetermined by subscribership.)

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