Friday January 15 7:36 PM ET
Cell Phone Jams Thousands of Calls
CRYSTAL RIVER, Fla. (AP) - When the mysterious white car with tinted
windows and a small satellite dish on top pulled up to Calvin Simpson's
motor home, the retired engineer was puzzled.
``I thought, ``What are those guys doing?' Then they came up to me, and I
said, ``Uh-oh.' ''
The men, engineers for GTE Wireless, had found their culprit. For 10 days,
Simpson's cellular phone had been jamming cellular service for tens of
thousands of customers in Florida's Citrus and Hernando counties.
GTE Wireless customers in the region began reporting trouble with their
phones on Jan. 4 - the same day Simpson, 74, brought his motor home to the
Crystal Isle RV Resort for the winter from his home in South Portland,
Engineers still aren't sure what caused the problem, but they think
Simpson's phone was constantly transmitting signals to a ``set-up
channel'' on a cellular phone tower behind Crystal River's City Hall. The
channel is supposed to take signals and relay them to their destinations.
Simpson's phone, however, sent signals to the channel even when he wasn't
trying to make a call. Whenever his phone was on, the constant signal
prevented any cellular phone user from making a call via that tower.
GTE Wireless spent days in Crystal River trying to figure out what was
causing the outage before tracking the faulty signal to Simpson's cellular
phone. They used the same technology cellular phone companies use to track
stolen cell phones.
Once they found Simpson on Wednesday, they simply asked him to turn off
his cell phone.
Like magic, GTE Wireless was back in service in Crystal River.
``When I pulled the plug, they had a big sigh of relief,'' Simpson said.
The engineers who tracked him down got Simpson a new cell phone. The
company plans to take Simpson's old, faulty phone apart in hopes of
finding out exactly what it was that went wrong.
A spokesman for GTE wouldn't specify how many cell-phone customers the
company has, but estimated that tens of thousands may have been affected.
-- UC Irvine, Class of 1999 - Permanent email: firstname.lastname@example.org