Both broadband PCS and cellular networks use the same general operating design. Both can be described as
"cellular" systems, as both systems separate service regions into many small areas called "cells." By dividing
service regions into cells and employing a series of low-power transmitters, individual radio frequencies may be
re-used in different cells ("frequency reuse"), thereby allowing for more calls in the network. When a person places
a call on a mobile phone, the signal is transmitted to the nearest antenna, which connects with the local phone network.
As the mobile phone approaches the boundary of one cell, the network recognizes that the signal is becoming weak and
automatically hands the call off to the antenna in the next cell.
There are a number of issues related to operations using broadband PCS spectrum. You can read more about
Blocking & Jamming
Microwave Relocation Clearinghouses
Differences Between Broadband PCS and Cellular
Although broadband PCS licensees have generally opted to provide voice service similar to that found in the cellular service, PCS licensees have greater leeway to choose the types of technologies and services they may provide than do cellular carriers. Other than broadcast, PCS licensees may provide any mobile communications service on their assigned frequencies, and may also provide wireless fixed services on a co-primary basis with mobile operations. Although cellular licensees may also provide alternative technologies as well as wireless fixed services, cellular carriers must comply with more detailed technical and operational requirements, such as rules regarding mandatory provision of analog service, licensing, and interference criteria, that PCS licensees are not subject to.
The Commission's rules require that all cellular carriers provide analog service that is compatible with the Advanced Mobile Phone Service (AMPS) standard. This requirement is scheduled to sunset in 2008. In contrast, other mobile telephony carriers are not required to provide analog service.
Cellular is not licensed in the same manner as other market-based services. Market-based licensees may operate anywhere within their entire geographic markets. In contrast, the initial cellular carriers of Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) and Rural Service Areas (RSA) are only permitted to build out their markets for a five-year period (see 47 C.F.R. 22.947). At the end of this period, only areas that are actually being served are considered to be part of the provider's license area, or Cellular Geographic Service Area (CGSA) (see 47 C.F.R. 22.911). Portions of the MSA or RSA that are not served by the licensee at the end of the five-year period is considered unserved area, and is subject to licensing pursuant to the Commission's two-phase cellular unserved area licensing process, set forth in 47 C.F.R. 22.949. As long as they comply with applicable construction requirements, other market-based services licensees do not similarly lose the areas within their market that they are not serving.