Personal Communications Service

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At the most basic level Personal Communications Service or PCS describes a set of wireless communications capabilities that allows some combination of terminal mobility, personal mobility, and service profile management.[1] More specifically, PCS refers to any of several types of wireless voice and/or wireless data communications systems, typically incorporating digital technology, providing services similar to advanced cellular mobile or paging services. In addition, PCS can also be used to provide other wireless communications services, including services that allow people to place and receive communications while away from their home or office, as well as wireless communications to homes, office buildings and other fixed locations.[2] Described in more commercial terms, PCS is a generation of wireless-phone technology that combines a range of features and services surpassing those available in analog- and digital-cellular phone systems, providing a user with an all-in-one wireless phone, paging, messaging, and data service.[3]

The International Telecommunication Union describes Personal Communications Services as a component of the IMT-2000 (3G) standard. PCS and the IMT-2000 standard of which PCS is a part do not specify a particular air interface and channel access method. Wireless service providers may deploy equipment using any of several air interface and channel access methods, as long as the network meets the service description characteristics described in the standard.[4]

In Canada, Mexico and the United States, PCS services are provided in the "1900 MHz band" (specifically 1850-1990 MHz).[5] This frequency band was designated by the United States FCC and Industry Canada to be used for new wireless services to alleviate capacity caps inherent in the original AMPS and D-AMPS cellular networks in the "850 MHz band" (specifically 800-894 MHz). These frequency bands are particular to North America and other frequency bands may be designated in other regions.

First PCS network in the United States[edit]

In the United States, Sprint PCS was the first company to build and operate a PCS network, launching service in November 1995 under the Sprint Spectrum brand in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area. Sprint originally built out the network using GSM radio interface equipment. Sprint PCS later selected CDMA as the radio interface for its nationwide network and built out a parallel CDMA network in the Baltimore-Washington area, launching service in 1997. Sprint operated the two networks in parallel until finishing a migration of its area customers to the CDMA network. After completing the customer migration, Sprint PCS sold the GSM radio interface network equipment to Omnipoint Communications in January 2000.[6] Omnipoint was later purchased by VoiceStream Wireless which subsequently became T-Mobile USA. Sprint's original GSM network still forms the backbone of T-Mobile's wireless network in the Baltimore-Washington area.

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