A decision by the Federal Communications Commission that allows all cell phone companies to turn off their analog networks beginning in February of 2008 means that nearly two million people, or half of OnStar's entire subscription base, will soon find the other end silent when they press that blue button on their vehicle's dash.
General Motors' OnStar service was originally built in 1996 on an analog network owned by Verizon Wireless because digital networks at the time didn't provide enough coverage to outlying and rural areas where many OnStar subscribers are located.

Still, the FCC ruled on the sunsetting of analog networks all the way back in 2002, and for two years General Motors continued selling vehicles equipped with analog equipment that it knew would become obsolete. While the New York Times article seems to cry foul that it took GM another two years to switch from analog-only to dual-mode (analog/digital) hardware, that timetable sounds about right to us. Without knowing which way the FCC was going to rule (many companies that rely on analog networks like ADT Home Securities lobbied the FCC along with OnStar to stay the execution of analog networks), General Motors likely wasn't prepared to pull the switch on its suppliers, and in the meantime equipped many vehicles with analog/digital-ready hardware that could at least be upgraded to dual-mode when the time came. That time is coming at the end of 2007, as all analog networks will be shut off on January 1st, 2008. At that time, any OnStar subscriber with a vehicle before 2002 and some with vehicles between 2002 and 2004 will find themselves all alone in the driver's seat.

OnStar has set up a webpage for subscribers who would like more info on the transition and to find out if their vehicle is capable of being upgraded to survive the switch.

[Source: New York Times]

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