NCS expands coverage for Wireless Priority Service

The National Communications System has expanded coverage for its Wireless Priority Service for cellular phone users into the western and northeastern continental United States and Hawaii.

WPS is the cellular equivalent of the Government Emergency Telecommunications Service, which provides priority wireline telephone service to national security and emergency service personnel during emergencies.

T-Mobile USA Inc. of Bellevue, Wash., remains the only cellular carrier to offer the service, although NCS program manager John Graves said he expected other carriers to join in the near future.

An initial stopgap service offering limited wireless priority in Washington and New York was initiated following Sept. 11, 2001, and in Salt Lake City for the 2002 Olympic games.

A second phase with more advanced technology was rolled out in January in 15 T-Mobile market areas across the south and in Philadelphia and Boston.

The latest expansion adds market areas around Albuquerque, N.M.; Austin, Texas; Chicago; Cincinnati; Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas; Denver; Detroit; Honolulu; Milwaukee; Oklahoma City; Salt Lake City; Tulsa, Okla.; and Wichita, Kan.

The service also is available throughout Connecticut, south and central Pennsylvania, upstate New York, and West Texas.

Authorized users in federal, state and local government and key private infrastructure organizations can go to the head of the queue for an open cellular channel when a WPS prefix is dialed with a number, increasing the chances of completing a call during times of congestion. Priority calls do not pre-empt calls in progress, so WPS will not monopolize cellular service in an emergency.

NCS contracted with T-Mobile for the service through DynCorp of Reston, Va., the WPS integration contractor. The priority service now is available only on Global System for Mobile Communication systems. NCS plans to add carriers using Code Division Multiple Access, the predominant U.S. cellular technology, to the program.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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