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How could Wireless Communications be made more secure? Term Paper


Introduction

Wireless communication is by far the most widely spread and fastest growing sector of the communication industry. It has mesmerized our civilization to a great extent. According to Brian Fling, “The telephone is undoubtedly one of the greatest inventions of mankind. It revolutionized communications, enabling us to reach across great distances and share thoughts, ideas and dreams with our fellow man, making the world a much smaller place in the process.” (Fling, 2009, p.1).

The telegraph network, invented by Samuel Morse in 1838 opened the path of wireless communication and was furthered by Guglielmo Marconi in 1895, when he transmitted the three-dot Morse code by the help of electromagnetic waves. Thus radio communication came into existence.

There has been a multifarious growth in this segment. Amongst the segments of wireless communication, cellular technology has been the most popular and widely accepted technology. The reason of the popularity of cellular technology is its simplicity in handling. Further in this paper, we shall discuss about the cell phone technology, our area of research.

The Cell Phone Technology

Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876. According to Ian Poole, “A number of people worked on transmitting sound over wires. In 1857 an Italian-American named Antonio Meucci developed a primitive telephone system but, coming from a poor background, he was unable to obtain any financial backing. The traditionally acknowledged inventor of the telephone was a Scot named Alexander Graham Bell.” (Poole, 2006, p.2).

Subsequently, radio telephones for cars were invented, in which there was a central antenna in each city that could cater to a maximum of 25 channels. Not many people could use this service. Moreover, it was a limited distance service, to be precise, for up to a distance of 70 km. After many modifications done over the years, we have the phone in its present shape. The market of mobile phones and cordless phones gathered pace and today these are one of the most sought consumer products.

Cellular phone, called cell phone in slang usage, also known as mobile phone, is a kind of telecommunication that uses short-wave analog or digital transmissions. The subscriber’s mobile phone is connected (wireless) to the nearest mobile tower (transmitter). A mobile phone should not be perplexed with a cordless phone because the latter has a very limited wireless connectivity to its base phone.

The ‘Mobile Telephone Service’ (MTS) was launched in St. Louis in the year 1946, with three channels and manual operation. MTS was launched by Motorola in collaboration with the Bell System. The services were very popular, but since they were limited, a new service namely, the ‘Improved Mobile Telephone Service’ (IMTS) was launched in the year 1964.

Simultaneously, ‘Radio Common Carrier’ (RCC) was also launched. During the 1980s, the ‘Advanced Mobile Telephone System (AMTS) was launched that put an end to the IMTS and RCC systems. In all these systems, the phone user had to remain in a particular cell area while talking. He/she could not move out because the reuse of frequencies was not yet started.

Martin Cooper and some other employees of Motorola namely, Richard W. Dronsuth, Albert J. Mikulski, Charles N. Lynk Jr., James J. Mikulski, John F. Mitchell, Roy A. Richardson, and John H. Sangster, invented the first car phone in 1973. Motorola was the first company to launch a formal mobile phone, for public use, in 1983. The model was called ‘Motorola Dyna TAC 8000X, weighing 2 pounds and a battery that had to be recharged every half an hour of talk time.

The cost of this phone was $3,995. Motorola got approval for its phone from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Earlier, mobile phone was a luxury product owned only by a selected few rich people, but today mobile phone has become a necessity. Martin Cooper had said, “People want to talk to other people – not a house, or an office, or a car.

Given a choice, people will demand the freedom to communicate wherever they are, unfettered by the infamous copper wire. It is that freedom we to vividly demonstrate in 1973.” (as cited in about.com)

Modus Operandi of Cell Phones

Now let us discuss how cell phones work. Let us take an example of any particular city. Supposedly, there will be many carriers in that city. Each carrier has around 830 different frequencies to use. The carrier divides the city into small cells which allow wide-ranging reuse of the frequency throughout that city.

As a result, numerous people can use the service at the same time. Normally, a cell is designed to cater about 26 km. Each cell can be portrayed as part of a huge hexagonal grid. A tower is placed at the centre of the cell so that it covers a vast area. The following diagram will further explain the theory:

How cell phones work image.

Owing to usage of low-power transmitters, cells that are apart can reuse the same frequency. In the above diagram, the same frequency can be reused by the cells with red outline. A cell is supported by a tower and a room that has the required equipment.

In an analog system, seventh part of the available duplex voice channels is used by a cell. As a result, each cell has its own separate frequency and there is no chance of collision. In analog system, two frequencies are used per cal. Each cell has 56 available voice channels.

The use of digital transmission increases the number of available channels and as such, more people can talk at a given time. A typical example is the ‘Time Division Multiple Access’ (TDMA) system that increases the available up to three times. Other examples of digital transmission system are the ‘Code Division Multiple Access’ (CDMA) and the ‘Global System for Mobile Communication’ (GSM).

The transmissions emitted by a cell phone and a base station are low-powered. Low-powered transmissions have a dual benefit. Firstly, the transmissions of a particular cell are so adjusted that they remain within their cell’s limits. As a result, as we can see in the above diagram, the cells with the red outline can reuse the same frequency over and again. Secondly, cell phones consume less power which requires small batteries. This very fact has made the cell phone a reality.

Inter cell communication

Each cell phone has its own typical code that is used as an identity of the owner. This code also provides details about the phone and the network provider. Following is the sequence of happenings when someone tries to call.

  1. When a phone is switched on, it first searches for the System Identification Code (SID) through the control channel. SID is basically a five digit number that is unique for each mobile phone. Control channel is the frequency at which the phone and the base station connect to each other and communicate about the call set-up and channel changing. In case the control channel is not found, it means the phone is out of range and a message of ‘no service’ will be flashed on the mobile phone screen.
  2. Once the SID is communicated, it is compared to the preset SID of the mobile phone. If both the SIDs are same means that two mobile phones of the same home system have been connected.
  3. Simultaneously, a registration request is also transmitted by the mobile phone. The Mobile Telephone Switching Office (MTSO) keeps a record of the mobile phone’s location so that it knows the particular cell in which the mobile phone is located and can call the mobile phone when it needs to.
  4. When someone calls on the mobile phone, it is first received by the MTSO. In turn, the MTSO tries to locate the mobile phone by looking into the database for its location.
  5. Once the cell has been identified, the MTSO then matches the frequency of the mobile phone with the available frequencies so that it can pick the right one.
  6. Then once the mobile phone and the tower switch on to that frequency, the call is supposed to be connected. Consequently, the conversation starts.
  7. While on the move, when the mobile phone reaches the edge of its cell, the signal strength starts diminishing. But at the same time, the cell towards which the mobile phone is moving starts receiving its strong signals. The base stations of these two cells communicate with each other and at some particular point, the frequency is changed and the mobile phone is automatically switched on to the other frequency.

While on Roaming

A mobile phone is said to be in roaming if its SID is not matching with the SID of the cell where it is located. The base station of this cell contacts the home base station of the mobile phone. Once the home base station confirms the validity of the SID, the local MTSO is communicated about it and henceforth that particular MTSO matches its frequency with that of the mobile phone and tracks its movements through its cells.

Comparing Mobile Phones with Citizens Band Radios

Until we understand the difference between mobile phones and citizens band radios (CBs), we might as well not be able to appreciate the sophistication of mobile phones.

  1. Well, there are two kinds of devices; simplex and duplex. Walkie-talkies and CBs are examples of simplex devices. It means two people communicate with each other using the same frequency. This means that only one person can talk at a time. Once he finishes his talk, only then the person on the other end can talk. But a mobile phone is a duplex device where two frequencies are used at the same time. So persons at both the ends can speak at the same time and listen as well.
  2. There is only a single channel in a walkie-talkie, forty channels in a CB radio, but a mobile phone has more than 1664 channels on which it can communicate.
  3. The range of a walkie-talkie is one mile, that of a CB radio is five miles, but for a mobile phone, there is no limit if it keeps on getting frequencies while on the move. This is possible because of the cell theory that we discussed earlier in this paper.

Components of a Mobile Phone

The following are the main components of a mobile phone:

  1. Circuit board,
  2. Antenna,
  3. Liquid crystal display (LCD),
  4. Keyboard,
  5. Microphone,
  6. Speaker, and
  7. Battery.

The circuit board in considered to be the heart of the mobile instrument. It consists of several chips that do different functions. The analog to digital chip converts the outgoing audio signals from analog to digital, and the digital to analog chip converts the incoming audio signals from digital to analog.

The digital signal processor (DSP) does the signal manipulation calculations at very high speed. The microprocessor is designed to deal effectively with the base station and also to co-ordinate other functions. The storage for the phone’s customized features is provided by the ROM and flash memory.

The RF and power section deal with the FM channels and recharging, respectively. The signals coming to and going from the antenna are managed by the RF amplifiers. The liquid crystal display (LCD) is the screen where all the information is displayed. During the years, the size of this LCD has become bigger and bigger due to the incorporation of games, internet facility, calculator, etc. in many of the new generation mobile phones.

Access Technologies

In order to transmit information, the following three technologies are used by mobile phone networks:

  1. Frequency division multiple access (FDMA),
  2. Time division multiple access (TDMA), and
  3. Code division multiple access (CDMA)

It is not difficult to understand the meaning of these technologies. The last two words in all the three of them are ‘multiple access’. This means that multiple people can use the services at the same time. The first two words tell us the access method based on which the calls are split. In FDMA, each call is assigned a different frequency.

An example of FDMA is a radio station. In TDMA, some portion of time is assigned to each call on any particular frequency. TDMA is more commonly used by the Electronics Industry Alliance and the Telecommunications Industry Association. The Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) also uses the TDMA as its access technology. In CDMA, each call is given a separate code.

Future Trends in Mobile Technology

It is difficult to keep up with the pace of development in the mobile industry. We buy a latest mobile phone today and in a few days we see a newer model, with better features, being launched. According to Ron Schneiderman, “With the number of mobile phones approaching one billion globally, the opportunities for equipment manufacturers, service providers, and users are tremendous.

Market projections vary widely, but most analysts agree that at least half of all mobile devices used for Internet access will eventually also be used for mobile commerce.” (Schneiderman, 2002, p.3). One cannot predict the exact future of the mobile technology, but based on studies, following are the future trends.

Mobile Projector

The initiative in mobile projection was taken by Samsung by launching its Beam model. Although the features were primitive, yet it has paved the way for more advanced projector phones. This kind of development will be helpful for conferences and meetings where projects are to be discussed. People will not have to wait for the plugging in of laptops. They will be able to view the presentations instantly. Seeing the pace of inventions in mobile technology, the day is not far off when we shall have video conferencing over the mobile phone.

Three dimensional imaging

In future, the architects should be able to make holographic projections of their designs. It will prove to be a boon for the designing industry. The medical professionals also will be able to do holography of the complete body. But this feature might take some time.

Crystal clear imaging

Today also we have mobile phones that have great clarity in the pictures taken. But in future, there might be even better options. An example is the Nokia N8 smart phone which has an eight megapixel camera and Carl Zeiss optics. All these features are bound to increase the price of the handsets, but people, who can afford, are more concerned about the features than the price.

Safety

In near future, we can expect to trace victims of any accident, by the help of the signals from their mobile phones. This will enable the authorities to save their lives by reaching at the accident spot in time.

Eye dialing

Won’t it be nice to have such a phone where, while driving, we’ll be able to eye-dial a number with the help of a display that is fixed at the level of our head? Well not only this but even projected keyboards and touch pads are going to be a reality in the coming years.

Full fledge computer

During the years, the processors have become smaller and smaller but powerful. So in future we might expect a mini processor that could be fitted into our mobile phones and then we won’t need our desktops anymore.

4G

The launch of 4G is not far away. When 3G was launched, people thought what more could they get in a mobile. But there is no limit to the technology. After 4G, there are very bright chances of 5G to hit the market by the year 2020. The speeds will be even faster.

Finger based security

Fujitsu is working on a security system for mobiles, based on the fingerprints and it won’t be long enough for this new technology to be launched. This will save professionals from the embarrassment of losing company information.

Download based on identity

This is also a feature that is being developed, where any personal downloads will be possible only after the identity of that person is established.

Eco-friendly mobile handsets

This feature might not be of concern to most of us but Sony Ericson has already taken an initiative by launching Green Heart. It has lower carbon emissions and recycled plastics have been used in the production.

Solar charging

This is another eco-friendly feature that we can expect in the near future. Instead of the usual electric charging, the battery will have inbuilt solar cells.

“The mobile phone would appear to be the preferred personal communications device for the foreseeable future although it will most likely develop as a hybrid of other information communication technologies rather than replace them.” (Hamill et al, 2005, p.103).

Companies Engaged in Mobile Technology

Mobile technology has a bifurcation. On one side are the handset manufacturers and on the other are the service providers. But both are inter-related and dependent on each other.

Following are the top handset manufacturers

  1. Nokia
  2. Samsung
  3. LG
  4. Apple
  5. ZTE

Other manufacturers include Motorola, Sony Ericson, HTC, Micromax, Nexian, Blackberry, Siemens, Alcatel, Philips, Panasonic, etc.

Following table shows the top five manufacturers of mobile handsets by market share in the second quarter of 2011.

Manufacturer Percentage of share according to survey by Gartner Percentage of share according to survey by IDC
Nokia 22.8% 24.2%
Samsung 16.3% 19.2%
LG 5.7% 6.8%
Apple 4.6% 5.6%
ZTE 3.0% 4.5%
Others 47.6% 39.7%

Source:

Following are some of the mobile service providers in the world

  1. China Mobile (China)
  2. Vodafone (United Kingdom)
  3. America Movil (Mexico)
  4. China Unicorn (China)
  5. Telefonica – Movistar (Spain)
  6. T-Mobile (Germany)
  7. France Orange / France Telecom – Orange (France)
  8. Norway Telenor (Norway)
  9. Bharti Airtel (India)
  10. TeliaSonera (Sweden)

Regulatory Issues

It has been almost 35 years since mobile technology was developed. Since then, there has been a lively relation between the industry and the regulators. Initially, it was thought that forcing more regulations will hamper the competition amongst the industry. So for many years, there were no regulations.

But the unexpected vigorous growth of the mobile industry has forced the governments of different countries and at different levels, to initiate certain directives for the functioning of the mobile industry as a whole. According to Cellular, “The huge growth in subscribers and services over public mobile networks has set new challenges of establishing technical and ethical standards for provision of services as well as ensuring compliance with regulations that directly apply to mobile industry.” (Cellular)

A majority of the regulations have been centered on the spectrum that the federal government has channeled to the commercial wireless industry. A change in the FCC administration has been welcomed because the new administration has come out with a new agenda in order to remodel the telecommunication industry.

One of the major manufacturers of mobile phones is Ericsson. According to Ericsson, “The mobile broadband revolution is putting regulators under pressure to license new spectrum. However, spectrum is a scarce resource – and distributing it on a piecemeal basis without a comprehensive plan for the whole band could lead to fragmentation and country-specific allocations.” (Ericsson)

Mobile phones are controlled by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) by way of certain regulations. Following are the some of the recent regulations surrounding the mobile industry

The National Broadband Plan – Spectrum

According to this plan, the available broadband services across the country are to be expanded. According to Dan Meyer, “The FCC’s audacious plan to unlock up to 300 megahertz of new spectrum over the next five years and 500 megahertz over the next 10 years has drawn considerable interest. The plan recently received backing of President Barak Obama.” (Meyer, 2010)

Freedom of Spectrum

The underused spectrum that is currently under the control of television giants is to be freed. The government has already earned tens of billions of dollars by spectrum and now it plans to gain more by auctioning the available spectrum.

Regulations on Broadband

A Notice of Inquiry was recently passed (3-2 vote) by the FCC in order to develop a guideline of new regulations for the broadband services.

Differences between small and large operators

It has been observed that certain big companies have special access to the government programs. The FCC plans to regulate such practice.

The Telecom Act

This act was an amendment of the Communications Act of 1934. It was signed by President Bill Clinton in the year 1996. There were two important regulations included in this act. Firstly, the internet was also included in the broadcasting and allotment of spectrum and secondly, cross ownership of media was allowed.

Global implications

Radiation

Today we can see a mobile phone in the hands of almost everyone. Studies have proved that the waves emanating from the mobile phone are hazardous to the human health. In this regard, Amy Rosenthal wrote, “Recent research shows long-term cell phone use associated with a higher risk of health effects, so the current standard may not adequately take into account the potential effects of a lifetime of cell phone talking, especially for those who begin at a young age.” (Rosenthal, 2009).

The following are the acceptable radiation levels for different parts of human body

Head – less than or equal to 1.6 W/kg

Whole body – less than or equal to 0.08 W/kg

Hands, wrists, feet, and ankles: less than or equal to 4 W/kg

Misappropriation of information

From past experiences we have noticed that some people with wrong intentions match the frequencies and get information that is being transmitted. This information is then misappropriated and used for the disadvantage of the human race.

Sensitive data in wrong hands

Mobile phones have come a long way as far as the features are concerned. The operating system and huge available memory allow people to store company information so that it can be retrieved at times of urgencies. But such acts can prove to be dangerous if the handset is lost or misplaced.

If it falls in wrong hands, it can be used against the company. According to an article in Smart Data, “A lot of sensitive information is easily accessible on your phones these days, especially with the trend of using personal devices in workplace environments. Corporate emails, social media accounts, and bank apps are on our phones to check at our own convenience on a daily basis with most of our passwords saved on each account for easy access.” (Smart Data, 2011)

References

About.com. Martin Cooper – . Web.

Cellular. International Legal & Regulatory Issues in Mobile. Web.

Ericsson. Regulating Mobile Broadband. Web.

Fling, B. (2009). Mobile Design and Development. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media, Inc.

Hamill, L., Lasen, A. (2005). Mobile World – Past, Present and Future. Surrey, U.K.: Springer.

Meyer, D. (2010). Regulations remain Stiff Challenge for Mobile Industry. Web.

Poole, I. (2006). Cellular Communications Explained: From Basics to 3G. Burlington, MA: Elsevier Ltd.

Rosenthal, A. (2009). 3 Ways FCC Rules Fail to Protect Children from Cell Phone Radiation. Web.

Schneiderman, R. (2002). The Mobile Technology. New York: AMACOM Div American Management Association.

Smart Data. (2011). Mobile security: How safe is Your Data? Web.

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