Justin Callaway is so upset with Cingular Wireless, "now the new AT & T," that he made a website, Feeling Cingular, to spoof the company. He has also created a music video about his experience with hope that consumers will learn a little more about Cingular's products and their downfalls.
The problem began last summer when one of Justin's computer speakers blew up after playing back a sound emitted from his Cingular phone. Justin was unaware that the Cingular system causes certain phones to give off a radio frequency signal just before they ring. His cell phone was placed near his computer while he worked on a client's video. The system recorded the sound emitted from the phone just before it rang. When he played back the video at a loud setting, the signal caused the speaker to explode. The company has not told consumers about this, and some are angry about the secret.
Justin, a student at the New School in Media Studies, began to investigate the problem after he talked with other Cingular users, and employees, who experienced the same trouble. He used his skills as a video editor to create a radio documentary about the experience for a course project. A video, part of the project, now appears on his website to bring to light a problem that few cellular providers using GSM admit to having.
After seeking help from several Cingular retails stores, Justin called the toll-free customer service line. The representatives acknowledged his experience, but they would not replace the speaker. One manager blamed Justin for the incident stating that the speaker's volume was too high. Once he discovered that Cingular had no plans to fix the problem, he asked to be released from his contract. Cingular refused his request.
The incident that Justin, and others, experienced is not uncommon to GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) users. Most phones, especially older ones, emit a signal when they are about to receive a call. Any electronic device near the phone can pick it up, especially ones with poor RF shields. The interference causes an annoying buzz to be transmitted through the device's speaker(s). Consumers have reported the sound coming from units that were powered off. Some phones buzz even when a call is not coming through. Industry experts say this happens because networks routinely send out signals to check if phones are on, even if they are not in use.
The signals are one of the reasons that most hospitals have banned cell phone use while in the building. Older phones are known to interfere with life-saving equipment, such as heart monitors and ventilators. Until now, little has been mentioned about the effects on consumer products.
This problem does not affect competitors who use the CDMA, or Code Division Multiple Access, transmissions. The difference is that CDMA phones always have the transmitter on, where the GSM phone use an "on/off" sequence. Since CDMA phones do not pulse, the buzzing is not an issue.
Some customers remain loyal to their chosen providers. Others are so annoyed by the sound that they changed to networks like Verizon and Sprint. Those who switched are happy with the silence. Justin Callaway is one of them.