Cutting The Cord.  Inside And Out..
Hello for 7-2001
By: Mike Lipshultz

Cutting The Cord.  Inside And Out.

As more and more offices are discovering the benefits of cutting the cord, and going to cordless business phones, AT&T has a system that goes even further.

As it is now, in the office you use that cordless phone which is connected to the company’s phone system.  When you leave the office you use your cell phone.  Ever think how nice it would be to only use one phone.  One that would be the office phone, and one that would be your cell phone?

A lot of folks out there think it’s a great idea.   That’s why they use their cell phone as their only business phone.  Unfortunately this is not a practical solution for everybody.  It definitely will not work for large companies.

Enter AT&T.

AT&T makes a system that basically interfaces your Cell Phone with your office phone system.  When you’re in your office or in range of the system your phone runs off that system.  When you go out of range, your cell phone runs off the “normal” cell system.

So, does this system really work?

You bet.  In fact the Bee newspaper just completely converted over to it.

Here is a reprint of the story that was run in Editors and Publishers Magazine:

Editor & Publisher magazine.

To subscribe, click here.

by Mark Fitzgerald

A year ago this month, The Fresno (Calif.) Bee cut the phone cord. In an apparent first for newspapers, the Bee installed a private wireless telephone cell around its offices and production facilities so calls follow employees wherever they go.

The predictable result is a work force that is far easier to reach. The perhaps surprising result is that a system that encourages cell-phone use is proving no more expensive than conventional systems of deploying pagers, radio dispatch, and multiple voice-mail boxes to keep in touch with salespeople, production managers, photographers, and reporters.

“For the company, [the costs] are a total wash,” says Terry Geiger Jr., the Bee’s information technology director. “You’re not doing this for the cost saving so much as for the kind of intangibles of productivity. You’re able to get a call to someone right away, rather than wait for two hours for something you really needed at the moment or that would have been really helpful to get sooner.”

Fresno is the only McClatchy Co. newspaper—and perhaps the first paper anywhere—to embrace wireless telephony in such an extensive way.

Last June, AT&T Wireless concluded installation of a network of antennas in and around the Bee’s Fresno facilities that created a kind of private wireless cell. Inside that bubble, which extends for nearly a mile from the paper’s property, Bee employees can make unlimited cell-phone calls without running up any wireless time charges.

“It’s replaced pagers. People who had pagers before have gotten rid of them, and the service charge [for cellular] is about the same as it was for pagers,” Geiger says.

There are still corded phones on Bee desks, and the paper still has a conventional PBX (private branch exchange) telephone system. What the AT&T system does is automatically ring an employee’s cell phone whenever a call is received at his or her desk phone. If the employee does not take the call, it goes into one voice-mail system for both the desk unit and the cell phone.

“It makes a difference,” Geiger says. Paired at a golf tournament with a Bee manager whose department does not yet have the wireless service, Geiger was able to simply check the display unit of his cell phone for any messages, while his partner had to call in.

Rollout of the system began with the tech department and quickly included the sales offices and newsroom. “It’s a nice tool for photography,” Geiger says, “especially because you can eliminate radio dispatch and contact photographers using phones with either text messages or voice.”

The Bee does not use wireless networking for any of its production or publishing computer systems, but it is looking at adapting the AT&T system for personal digital assistants (PDAs) so circulation delivery routes can be quickly altered and downloaded. “We want to get circulation on board because this brings them into a little fuller interactive relationship with the [main] building,” Geiger says.

The Bee is the only newspaper using the AT&T system, which has been installed at area hospitals and medical centers, and at a local headquarters of the Caltrans commuter rail line, says Suzette Van Wyhe, an account executive with AT&T Wireless..


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