Private Lines
About Private Line

Private Line covers what has occurred, is occurring, and will ocurr in telecommunications. Since communication technology constantly changes, you can expect new content posted regularly.

Consider this site an authoritative resource. Its moderators have successful careers in the telecommunications industry. Utilize the content and send comments. As a site about communicating, conversation is encouraged.


Thomas Farely

Tom has produced since 1995. He is now a freelance technology writer who contributes regularly to the site.

His most recent article, on cell phone history, has just been published in Invention and Technology Magazine.
He also recently appeared on the History Channel, in an episode of Man, Moment and Machine about Alexander Graham Bell. Tom's personal page is here.

Ken Schmidt

Ken is a licensed attorney who has worked in the tower industry for seven years. He has managed the development of broadcast towers nationwide and developed and built cell towers.

He has been quoted in newspapers and magazines on issues regarding cell towers and has spoke at industry and non-industry conferences on cell tower related issues.

He is recognized as an expert on cell tower leases and due diligence processes for tower acquisitions.

Private Line compiles the latest news headlines relating to the telecommunications industry. Our News section sifts through recent web-posts and extracts important current reports that you may have overlooked. Subscribe to the News Feed and stay informed.

From the Owner:

We apologize in advance for the following piece of self promotion, but Ken Schmidt, author of some of the content on Privateline, has recently started a law firm named Cell Tower Attorney. The law firm was formed to specifically help clients with legal issues related to cell tower and cell site leases. To help broaden the firm's reach, Ken Schmidt partnered with Neil Levinbook, formerly a Nextel regional counsel. Collectively, the members of Cell Tower Attorney have reviewed thousands of leases.

One of the benefits of specializing in such a specific area is that clients who retain the firm do not end up paying for their attorney to research the cell site lease. Furthermore, as dedicated cell tower attorneys, the lawyers of Cell Tower Attorney are likely to have dealt with similar client issues in the past. Because the partners have experience representing both the carriers (formerly) and the landowner, they can provide unique insight into what the wireless carrier or tower company issues are. Lastly, the partners of Cell Tower Attorney have access to many experts in engineering, construction, and tower development issues.

If you are looking for an attorney to review a proposed cell tower lease agreement, or need assistance reviewing a proposal for a cell site lease buyout, or are having problems with your existing cell site lease, the partners of Cell Tower Attorney are well prepared to assist you. The firm is licensed in Florida, New York, Illinois, and California.

For more information on Cell Tower Attorney, please visit

Private Line's network of cell tower resources expanded in 2010. Airwave Strategies and its President J. Jonathan Russo joined our content network. Mr. Russo's website provides cell site management services to tower and building owners, managers and developers in New York, Long Island, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

In 2011 Ken Schmidt, owner of Private Line, started a new consulting service in Australia. If you are searching for an Australian Mobile Tower Expert, look no further than

June 02, 2008

Posted by Tom Farley at 02:46 AM

Cell Phone Tower Scanning

Q.: When a cell phone is turned on, and pings for a tower, do all towers record the pings, no matter the
service provider?

For instance, if your provider is Verizon, will your pings be recorded by a Cingular tower if it is the
nearest in the clear?

A. (From Mark van der Hoek)

Nope. First of all, the phone doesn't 'ping' anything, it scans intelligently. When your phone is first turned on, it searches for available service according to a list that it stores internally. This list includes the frequency band and operator ID to scan, and it will scan ONLY these for normal service. (911 calls are different.) Your own operator and any authorized roaming partners will be in the list, but nobody else.

When it locates the best signal from list, it locks on, then registers on the network by sending its serial number and mobile number. This registration is sent to ONE site on ONE operator, not to all in the area. This is to let the system know you are available. The system then knows you are there, and where to send paging messages if there is a call for you. It stores this info until you either move to another area, or de-register. (Your mobile will re-register every X minutes. If the system doesn't hear from you for X minutes, it will assume you've turned off your phone and will forget about you until you re-register. X can run from a few minutes to an hour or more. The typical values are about 10-15 minutes.) Other than the system knowing your registration state, and the area you're in (or your last registered location), there is no record kept of this. Every time your registration area changes, the old info is overwritten. No history is kept. If a call comes in while you are de-registered, it will be sent straight to a "treatment," in phone company lingo. This would be voice mail, if you have that service, or a "Customer not available." recording, if you don't. (So, if you call someone and it goes straight to voice mail or a recording, it's usually because they are de-registered.)

A Verizon phone neither knows nor cares about a Cingular site, and vice versa. They use different technologies, and there is no compatibility between them. (CAVEAT: Some Verizon phones and some Cingular phones have analog capability. In this case, the 911 scenario, below, does apply.)

If you had, for example, a Verizon phone and Verizon & Sprint in the same area (same technology), the only time Sprint would ever be aware of your phone might be during a 911 call. If your phone can't find a good signal on a Verizon site, it will use whatever it CAN find (within the same technology), and that carrier is obligated to process the call. So, back to Verizon & Cingular, if you have an analog capable Verizon phone, and no Verizon service is available, Cingular could process that call if they had analog in your area.

March 07, 2008

Posted by Tom Farley at 11:50 AM

White Papers on Public Safety Radio

These white papers describe and evaluate the factors involved with acquiring a wireless radio network for first responders. They take into consideration the cost involved, security, range of transmission, lifespan of the network, and other factors which must be carefully considered before purchase.

These white papers were written by Stephen Macke.
Public Safety Radio Project (PDF)
Public Safety Guide for Acquiring Interoperability Communication Systems (PDF)

June 07, 2007

Posted by Tom Farley at 03:20 PM

New article on Private Line: Old Letter and Number Phone System

Ned Lambert, a native of Dayton, Ohio, sent Private Line a stunning message to add to our Telephone History section.

The article can be found here: Letter and Number System

It is a must read for any phone number exchange hobbiest.

May 10, 2007

Posted by Tom Farley at 05:18 PM

Nor-Tel Toll Service Desk

Here is the photo of a Nor-Tel Toll Service Desk position, this particular one from Coos Bay Oregon. The small silver box with a single line display was for calling card validation. An Apple computer was utilized.

When keying in a card number, the operator would key in the first 10 digits, then had to pause, until the lower display went dark and the number appeared in the upper display, the operator then keyed the last 4 digits and pressed Start. If the screen went dark, the card was valid and if the keyed number flashed, the card was invalid or miskeyed.

Interesting side note, there was one console that had been modified to handle ship to shore, complete with radio access. Coos Bay and La Grande were very small toll centers, comprised of 24 positions and 12 positions respectively.

They converted to TSD from #3 tollboards back in the early 70s, a full five years before GTE started introducing TSPS. Interesting, these small offices were automated before the GTE network as a whole.

I understand TSD was a stand alone switch and had no remote option and TSPS worked remotely with the originating switches. Also, interesting, the TSD offices could not dial international, they had to call Beaverton Inward (TSPS) and we placed the call for them

Ron Briggs

Posted by Tom Farley at 05:11 PM

TOPS System

I found these two pieces of information on the TOPS system out on the web. The first one is the most recent.

The second one has errors under "Mechanization to help the customer". When he mentions OSPS, he is actually referring to Nortel's Toll Service Desk.

I'm fascinated with the mechanization of operator services from the earliest of times. If anyone has information on PPCS, cordless "A" switchboards utilized with panel systems of the early 1920's, the British CSS1 cordless switchboard from the 1950's, or GTE's verson of the tollboard computer, MECOBS (some call it ACBOS), I would be

Is it me, or should someone or a group of people write a book on the mechanization of operator services? I would be happy to help and contribute and be a key player. I'm sure all the information we would need is "out there" among private individuals and in public libraries.

Spokane public library has a multiple volume set of books about the history and development of telephony, including a volume devoted to operator services. I don't recall if they were Bell or AT&T publications, they were one or the other. I can remember working graveyard at Beaverton (Oregon) TSPS 20 years ago and finding these fascinating huge old dusty cordboard protocol notebooks in a cabinet.

Lastly, there is a video entitled, "Phantom of the Operator". A history of telephony, women's roles in the industry
and how mechanization affected them. Here's the link for the producer's website, with good information and video clips I haven't seen the movie yet and would love to own it, but it is VERY expensive.

Just for pHun, have you seen the toll switchboard currently on eBay? It is from the Goleta (Santa Barbara) office, pre 1980 and before being outfitted with MECOBS.


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