Re: Analog Cell Phone Service - What About OnStar?

When OnStar (from GM) was announced some years back, it was said to

> operate on the analog cell phone network. GM claims that since 2004, > they started using Digital/Analog radios. So it seems there's a large > fleet of cars out there that will be crippled with the coming death of > analog cell phone service. > John >

Yes, many OnStar equiped vehicles will be crippled ... from OnStars website:

INFORMATION YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT VEHICLES WITH ONSTAR EQUIPMENT Since it was launched in 1996, OnStar has relied on an analog wireless network to provide communication to and from OnStar-equipped vehicles. Today, the analog network continues to provide the most extensive coverage across the United States and Canada. However, wireless carriers in the U.S. and Canada are in the process of transitioning their networks from analog to digital technology.

In November 2002, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruled that wireless carriers will no longer be required to support the analog wireless network as of early 2008. As a result, beginning January 1, 2008, OnStar service in the U.S. and Canada will only be available through vehicles equipped with dual-mode (analog/digital) equipment.

Q1. What different types of equipment do OnStar-equipped vehicles have?

A1. All OnStar-equipped vehicles have one of three types of equipment:

Analog-Only: OnStar-equipped vehicles with analog-only equipment were designed to operate only on the analog wireless network and cannot be upgraded for digital network compatibility. Vehicles with this equipment will no longer be able to receive OnStar services beginning January 1, 2008. At that time, service will be available only through dual-mode (analog/digital) equipment. Analog-only vehicles cannot be upgraded to digital equipment.

Analog/Digital-Ready: OnStar-equipped vehicles with analog/digital- ready equipment operate on the analog wireless network, but were designed to be upgraded to dual-mode (analog/digital) equipment when available for that vehicle. Beginning January 1, 2008, OnStar service will not be available on these vehicles unless the OnStar equipment has been upgraded to dual-mode (analog/digital) equipment.

Dual-Mode (Analog/Digital): OnStar-equipped vehicles with dual-mode (analog/digital) equipment operate on both the analog and digital wireless networks and will not require an upgrade in connection with the wireless industry's transition to the digital network. Q2. What kind of hardware does my OnStar-equipped vehicle have? A2. To determine the equipment type in an OnStar-equipped vehicle, you may:

  • Press the blue OnStar button in the vehicle and ask the OnStar Advisor to identify which equipment type was factory-installed in the vehicle. * Call OnStar toll-free at 1.888.206.0031, or to contact us online, click here. (Please have your OnStar account number or your vehicle identification number (VIN) available.)

Q3. How does the transition to the digital network affect me right now?

A3. You don't need to do anything at this time. Your OnStar equipment will function as it always has until January 1, 2008. The analog network still offers the most extensive coverage available in the U.S. and Canada. In addition, the FCC ruling requires wireless carriers to support the analog network until early 2008.

Q4. Will I still be able to get an OnStar subscription after January 1, 2008?

A4. OnStar service will be available to vehicles with dual-mode (analog/digital) equipment. If you currently have analog/digital-ready equipment, it will need to be upgraded to dual-mode (analog/digital) equipment to continue service as of January 1, 2008. (Refer to Question #7 for additional information.) If your vehicle has analog-only equipment, however, you will not be able to upgrade the equipment nor will your vehicle be able to receive OnStar service as of January 1, 2008. (Refer to question #2 to determine which type of equipment was factory-installed in your vehicle.)

Q5. Will my OnStar-equipped vehicle's analog-only system still work after January 1, 2008?

A5. No. As of early 2008, wireless carriers will no longer be required to support the analog network. As a result, beginning January

1, 2008, OnStar will offer all services, including OnStar Hands-Free Calling, only through dual-mode (analog/digital) equipment.

Q6. Digital service has been around for a while - why does OnStar still utilize analog service?

A6. When OnStar was launched in 1996, analog provided the most extensive and reliable wireless coverage available for nationwide service. Even today, analog continues to provide the widest range of coverage across the U.S. and Canada. Vehicle manufacturers are now producing most OnStar-equipped vehicles with dual-mode (analog/digital) equipment, and are expected to produce only dual-mode (analog/digital) OnStar-equipped vehicles by 2006.

Q7. Will a digital upgrade program be available for subscribers with earlier versions of hardware?

A7. Each vehicle manufacturer will determine whether it will offer an analog-to-digital transition plan for subscribers who have analog/digital-ready OnStar equipment and are interested in upgrading to digital equipment. To learn more, click here.

Q8. Where do I go with questions about the FCC ruling that wireless carriers will no longer be required to support the analog network?

A8. For more information about the FCC ruling, visit, or click here for a downloadable version of the ruling. For the latest information about the OnStar analog-to-digital transition plan, please continue to visit

Q9. What is the FCC?

A9. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is a U.S. government agency charged with regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable. The FCC's jurisdiction covers the 50 United States, the District of Columbia and U.S. possessions.

Q10. How does the FCC ruling impact OnStar in Canada?

A10. Since most Canadians live within driving distance of the U.S./Canadian border, OnStar needs to be able to provide the same service in both markets. The FCC ruling is a U.S. regulation, and no date has been set for ending analog service in Canadian provinces. However, wireless carriers in Canada have made the determination to follow suit and have begun their transition from analog to digital networks as well. Therefore, beginning January 1, 2008, OnStar services in the U.S. and Canada will only be available through dual-mode (analog/digital) equipment.

Q11. What are wireless carriers?

A11. The independent wireless communication companies that hold cellular broadcast licenses in various areas are called wireless carriers or wireless service providers. OnStar relies on a nationwide wireless network of these carriers to provide communication to and from all OnStar-equipped vehicles.

Q12. What is analog?

A12. Analog wireless service transmits voice on a continuous radio wave using frequency modulation similar to an FM radio, and operates in the 800 MHz frequency range. All 800 MHz analog systems operate under a common industry standard, known as Advanced Mobile Phone Services (AMPS).

Q13. What is digital?

A13. In a digital wireless system, voice is converted to a digital signal and then transmitted over air. Digital wireless service operates in both the 800 MHz and 1900 MHz frequency range. The three dominant systems in the U.S. and Canada are CDMA, GSM and TDMA. OnStar-equipped vehicles with dual-mode (analog/digital) hardware have been engineered to work in the 800 MHz frequency for analog or CDMA digital networks, in addition to the 1900 MHz CDMA digital networks.

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J Kelly
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