Order widgets by phone--in the middle of a traffic jam
Jeno Kocsis lets his ''fingers do the walking''--while his other hand does the driving.
Mr. Kocsis, salesman for his own'steel equipment firm, often uses the telephone to make business transactions. But his job also demands that he spend much of his work day driving between appointments in the Chicago area.
So now he schedules appointments, handles complaints, and talks to clients from the phone in his 1978 Lincoln Continental.
Brothers and business partners Jeno and Louis Kocsis say that having telephones in their cars has saved money for their company and provided better service for their customers.
''I can be put in touch with customers right away. They have instant accessibility to me,'' says Jeno, although he admits ''I'm not going out on a limb to say the new business we have (since hooking into the experiment two years ago) is because of that.''
The Kocsis brothers say that mobile telephone systems - like the trial one in Chicago - should be available on the open market. But the service has been put on hold for 13 years while the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) deliberated how best to license operators.
In March, however, the FCC set the date to file applications for licenses (June 7). They will choose two companies to introduce mobile telephone systems in each of 35 major markets. Conceivably, one of the Bell Telephone subsidiaries could have the first system on line 18 months from now, according to Bell spokeswoman Linda Urben.
The FCC's action has given operators ''the green light they need'' to go ahead with plans that had stalled while the commission debated how, and to whom, to allocate radio airwaves used for transmitting phone calls, she said.
Although car telephones have been available for decades to the limousine crowd, the use of a new technology--called cellular radio--will open the market to the less auspicious owners of Buicks, Chevrolets, and Toyotas. Cellular radio will expand existing technology, which limits the number of calls in New York City to two dozen at any one time, into a virtually clog-free service.
A cellular system resembles a honeycomb - a network of 10 or more geographic ''cells,'' each about 8 miles wide, linked by telephone wire. Every cell contains a low-powered transmitting station that acts as a telephone operator, connecting calls from cars to telephones in homes and offices. Sophisticated electronic switchers automatically transfer calls from station to station as the vehicle travels from one cell to another.
According to Jeno Kocsis, ''the clarity is great'' with the cellular system. The old technology--using one high-powered transmitter--is subject to interference from skyscrapers or high terrain, and it makes people ''sound like they're talking in a barrel . . . the echo is so terrible,'' Mr. Kocsis says.
The FCC is expecting to be swamped with hundreds of applications on the June 7 filing date, says commission spokesman William Abler. The members voted a year ago to allocate enough radio frequencies (channels on the radio spectrum) to allow two cellular systems in each city, one to be reserved for the local phone company and the other for a competing radio common carrier.
With a price tag of $150 a month for lease of a phone terminal and use of air time, car telephones initially will be targeted toward the business market, where potential savings are greatest, says Bell's Linda Urben. ''AMPs (advanced mobile telephones) save 20 to 30 percent in productivity . . . ,'' she claims. A customer in the Chicago experiment ''gave up his office space and secretary because he didn't need them anymore.''
Building a cellular system to serve a market of 10,000 could cost license winners as much as $14 million--plus another $20 million to buy telephones for lease to customers. Despite the expense, the 22 soon-to-be-independent affiliates of American Telephone & Telegraph say 70 cellular systems in 35 communities can be on line in the next five years.