Bell Atlantic Mobile Systems, the cellular arm of Bell Atlantic Corp., said yesterday that it plans to expand its use of microcellular technology to enhance cellular phone reception indoors at public locations.
The new technology will be unveiled publicly for the first time later this month in Washington's Union Station.
Microcell technology utilizes the cellular concept on a smaller scale, placing extremely low-power cells in heavily used areas. In Union Station, Bell Atlantic Mobile plans to place a suitcase-sized transmitter and antennae in the Amtrak waiting area.
Conventional cellular systems, by contrast, utilize powerful cell sites that cover large areas.
According to Richard Lynch, vice president-network at Bell Atlantic Mobile, the microcell will provide cellular coverage in the station that is identical in quality to conventional service.
Today, more than 40 percent of Bell Atlantic Mobile's new customers are buying portable and transportable cellular phones.
According to the company, these customers have indicated they want to use them while they are in such places as hotel lobbies and train stations.
"Since traditional cell sites weren't designed to penetrate buildings, we're fine-tuning our network with microcells," Mr. Lynch said.
Initially, the microcell at Union Station will not be connected to the outside system. Later this year, the two will be connected, and customers will be able to place and receive calls, the company said. They will also be able to "hand off" calls as they leave the station.
Bell Atlantic Mobile said it expects to install microcells in other mid-Atlantic locations later.
Bell Atlantic Mobile is one of several companies experimenting with Personal Communication Networks, or PCNs, the industry term for small-scale systems designed to meet the personal communication needs of customers.