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A car phone is a mobile phone device specifically designed for and fitted into an automobile. This service originated with the Bell System, and was first used in St. Louis on June 17, 1946. The original equipment weighed 80 pounds (36 kg), and there were initially only 3 channels for all the users in the metropolitan area, later more licenses were added bringing the total to 32 channels across 3 bands (See IMTS frequencies). This service was used at least into the 1980s in large portions of North America. On October 2, 1946, Motorola communications equipment carried the first calls on Illinois Bell Telephone Company's new car radiotelephone service in Chicago. Due to the small number of radio frequencies available, the service quickly reached capacity.
In the 1980s, the car phone was more popular than the regular mobile phone. However, since the mobile phone boom in the 1990s, when mobile phones became much more affordable, the car phone has suffered, as most people carry their mobile phone around with them, and the availability of hands free kits installed in many cars allow the driver to talk and listen to a call while driving.
In Finland, car phone service was first available in 1971 on the zero-generation ARP (Autoradiopuhelin, or Car Radiophone) service. This was succeeded in 1982 by the 1G system NMT (Nordic Mobile Telephone), used across Scandinavia and in other often remote areas. In North America, car phone typically used the Mobile Telephone Service (MTS), which was first used in St. Louis, or Improved Mobile Telephone Service (IMTS) before giving way to analog cellular service (AMPS) in 1984. AMPS technology was discontinued in the United States in 2008.
Since a traditional car phone uses a high-power transmitter and external antenna, it is ideal for rural or undeveloped areas where mobile handsets may not work well or at all. However, due to current US Federal Communications Commission regulations, carriers must pay penalties for activating any equipment that is not an E911 compliant device, such as analog.
There were a few car phones available as of 2008[update], including the Nokia 810 and more recently the Motorola VC6096 for use with GSM networks and a car phone made by NAL Research for the Iridium satellite network. Motorola provides US customers with the m800 and m900 car phones, for use with CDMA and GSM networks respectively. Modern car phones have colour screens and support high speed data connections as well as the ability to access SIM cards stored in other phones via Bluetooth.
Recently, some automobiles feature integrated, "hands-free" systems to utilize a consumer's cellular phone, via a Bluetooth wireless link or use an integrated transceiver. The systems use an internally mounted microphone, and the car's audio system, and may feature voice activation and control.
- Regis J. Bates, Donald W. Gregory Voice & data communications handbook McGraw-Hill Professional, 2007 ISBN 0-07-226335-0 page 193
- Motorola First Car Radio Telephone
- History of Car Telephones 1946-1953
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- "New Bill Makes Talking On Handheld Cell Phone While Driving Primary Offense"; March 3, 2013 article; CBS Baltimore; retrieved May 1, 2013
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