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Cingular to charge for using old phone

If you have an older Cingular phone, it may be time to budget a little bit more for your cell phone bill.

About 4.7 million Cingular Wireless subscribers who still use analog phones will be charged $5 extra each month starting in September.

Cingular, which is owned by AT&T Inc. and BellSouth Corp., said it is attempting to shift all of its cellular traffic onto the Global System for Mobile, which is the standard protocol around the world.

Spokeswoman Rochelle Cohen said 92 percent of all Cingular subscribers use phones with GSM technology.

Older phones use two different forms of aging technology. Analog technology dates back to the first generation of mobile phones. The second type of technology, Time Division Multiple Access, was created to transmit analog signals through a digital network.

Because only about 8 percent of its 57.3 million subscribers use analog or TDMA phones, Cohen said it has grown "considerably" more expensive to provide that service.

The Federal Communications Commission requires that all U.S. cellular carriers continue to provide analog service until early 2008. Cohen said she expects Cingular to "sunset" analog early that year in accordance with FCC regulations.

Cohen said customers affected by the surcharge should receive a letter in the mail with their next bill. She encouraged anyone who had questions regarding their service to call the company.

"Most customers on TDMA or analog will qualify for a discount plan or phone," Cohen said. Discounts depend on how long the customer has been a Cingular subscriber.

Cohen was unable to specify exactly which phone models will be affected by the $5 charge.