RoadTrip America

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The Road Wirer

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"Firestone & Bassman"
by Mark Sedenquist

"Firestone and Bassman" sounds like it could be a sequel to one of John Le Carre's cold war novels. But actually Bill Firestone and Steve "Bassman" Walser are fellow dashboarding pioneers who have seriously taken my request for information from others who are pursuing the grail of on-the- road electronic communication.

This weekly column experienced a time gap of nearly a month due to time-consuming tasks related to RoadTrip America's move to a new virtual home and the pending launch of Megan's book, (Roads from the Ashes: An Odyssey in Real Life on the Virtual Frontier). There may be a few more gaps in the next couple of months, but I deeply appreciate the e-mail and news that has been sent my way recently.

Bill posted a request on the Rver's Online Website for information about anyone using AT&T's One Rate plan for on-the road e-mail access. One of the responders, Bob Gummersall, used the service during a recent 1,000 mile trip in conjunction with a dual band Nokia telephone. He reported that the voice service has been excellent, although data transfer has been "intermittent." Bob's experience was that data transmission reverted to analog in nearly all areas and often failed to establish the required connections even in areas where the voice service worked fine.

As you may remember, I am attempting to secure a data communication system for the Phoenix One utilizing equipment that can access one or more of the CDMA, TDMA and/or GSM standards. The interesting aspect of my current selection process is that, with rare exception, few sales representatives from the three or four largest telecom providers with whom I've spoken in the last two weeks can provide any information as to how to avail oneself of these services. I know of specialized service providers who can provide this information, but I find it very curious that so little information is being distributed at the consumer level by the major players.

It is particularly vexing that companies like AT&T Wireless are running national advertising campaigns on TV, radio and in print that make it appear as if these services are not only working, but that "just about everybody" is already using them. I know that there others like Bob and Bill, (and RTA), who would purchase the service today if it wasn't such a chore to figure out how and to receive some guarantee that it will work. So, I am turning to you again: Do you know anyone who is using any of the Third Generation protocols for on-the-road data transmission?

In Road Wirer #8, I mentioned that I was unable to locate any current information on the Celestri project, the broadband satellite communications system being underwritten by Motorola. Last week I received a brief message from Steve Bassman who suggested I review an obscure page on the Tagish company Website. There I discovered a news release dated May 6, 1998 on the European Telematics Horizontal Observatory Service (ETHOS), that described Motorola's decision to drop Celestri and join the $9 billion Teledesic network sponsored by Bill Gates and Craig McCaw. So my hat is off to Steve for helping the Road Wirer stay current, (or at least within a year...)

Megan's book tour launches in less than two weeks and my hope that I would have the CDPD, or similar data system, operational for the commencement of the tour is dimming. For now, the challenge of achieving a useable and reasonable communication system is still in quest mode. I look forward to hearing from you this week.

Mark Sedenquist
Pasadena, California
April 19, 1999