Some Substantial Reasons Why the Radiophone Cannot Supplant the Wire Telephone Systems--A Suggestion that Independent Companies Present Requirements for Special Wave Lengths to Governmental Authorities
By Henry Shafer
Radiophones, and their possible effect upon Independent telephony was a subject of much interest to many who attended the recent national convention in Chicago. Some expressed fear of the results which might befall wire telephone systems if radiophones prove a general success.
For the purpose of a discussion of the question regarding radiophones uppermost with the owners of Independently-owned wire telephone systems, it matters little whether the generally adopted hypothesis that electricity as well as light, radiant heat, X-rays and other radiant energy is transmitted through space by undulatory waves of ether, is established as an actual fact, or whether such reasonings are merely employed as a convenience in the explanation of the phenomenon.
The important point is that it has been thoroughly demonstrated that energy can be directed through space to transmit telegraph signals, operate the telephone and printing typewriter, to direct distant submarines, boats, land tanks, motors, etc.
One of the most striking statements to telephone companies of what the radiophone can do is in the 1920 Annual Report of the American Telephone & Telegraph Co., which states that "radio telephone communication has been established from Santa Catalina Island, about 30 miles out in the Pacific Ocean, to the mainland near Los Angeles, and at that point making junction with the local and long distance wires of the Bell system throughout the United States."
It may also be stated that one of the most important characteristics of radiotelephonic communication is the exceptional clearness of articulation, due supposedly to the absence of wave-form distortion which is always present in wire telephony by reason of the deleterious effect of the electrostatic capacity of metallic lines and cables.
It may be said as an established fact, that even with the many great advantages of radiotelephony over wire telephony from the technical standpoint, there are very substantial reasons why the radiophone cannot supplant the wire telephone systems. If through some special control of the electrons, or the energy similar to that in psychical contagion, mental telepathy would become generally possible, such a phenomenon might be of grave concern to the owners of wire telephone systems--but the radiophone, when used to its fullest extent, can only he made an auxiliary to existing telephone systems.
To what extent radiotelephony may be used to the benefit of Independently-owned wire telephone systems, largely depends upon what action the companies themselves take in the very near future.
That the industry may be conducted upon the "open-door" policy so any small group of telephone companies, or a chain of elevators or co-operative associations, etc., can get radiophones and do all their long distance telephoning through space at will, is impracticable and never can be attained.
While there is a group of interests who evidently now are attempting to completely control all radio business through the patent laws, however, that is not the plan under which this business is to be regulated.
The senior pioneers in Independent telephony who aided in the termination of the "paper" patents on the bridging bell, the battery, transmitter, the cord weight, the switchboard alternating generator, the common battery systems, etc., would not consider that an unsurmountable barrier if radio equipment is unreasonably withheld from public use.
The June, 1921, circular of the American Railway Association shows that many of the railways are taking up the problem of wireless and "wired wireless," and will not entirely rely upon others in the adaptation of radio service to meet their special requirements.
The city of Chicago is now taking a strong lead to employ radio signaling and radiotelephony in police and fire department work, and is developing a service along this line which is bound to be of great value to the general public throughout the United States.
It is becoming quite common that radio receiving sets are being installed to "catch" the messages flying through space, but to what extent such messages may be transmitted to others via the wire lines, or otherwise, has so far not been very definitely defined.
With the light of the pioneer days of Independent telephony (previous to 1900) focalized upon radiotelephony through the "open-door" lens of the present highest governmental agencies, it appears quite possible that in the very near future transmitting sets, as well as receiving sets, can be obtained for public and commercial purposes as well as for "amateur and experimental use only," such apparatus is now being sold to the general public by all responsible suppliers.
The users of the transmitting sets, however, are bound to be limited in number (not distance) owing to the limited "circuits" or wave lengths through space by which the radio equipment so far developed may be selectively operated.
This situation and the industry in general is being regulated in detail by federal laws based on international conventions.
The regulation of radio communication in all countries is now conducted in accordance with the London radio convention of July 5, 1912, and in this country in particular according to "an act to regulate radio communication" passed by Congress June 24, 1910, and as amended August 13, 1912, and July 1, 1921.
According to the London convention signed by practically all the civilized countries, it was agreed to give priority to distress signals and answers thereto; stations in use not to be disturbed by other stations "wanting the line"; any one coastal station not to "use the line" more than 15 minutes without a three-minute period of silent listening-in; regulations as to coastal and ship-board stations, and as to charges for messages and their transmittal over land lines; also specification as to "circuits" or wave length to be used for various purposes; as to priority of classes of service and other regulations common to all countries.
Under the United States regulations, all radio stations must be licensed by the Secretary of Commerce, excepting apparatus for radio communication which merely receive radiograms and are not equipped for sending, or transmitting sets which do not interfere with radiograms coming across a state line, or apparatus for army or navy use.
The licenses are classified for first, second or third-class ship stations, coastal stations and inland stations divided for general public service, limited public service, limited commercial, experimental, technical and training-school, special amateur, general amateur or restricted amateur stations.
The licenses specify the "circuit" or wave length to be used and bind the operator to secrecy and other regulations; they also require various examinations and proper experience for the different classes of stations. There are penalties of fines or imprisonments, or both, for divulging messages overheard and other various infractions of international and national regulations.
Owing to the rapid developments in radio communications, the military representatives of the allied powers held various conferences during the war to discuss necessary revisions of the London convention, and about a year ago a preliminary communications conference of the "five principal powers" was held in Washington. At the close of this conference it was provided that a technical committee shall be appointed by the five powers and shall meet to formulate recommendations for the use of the next world conference.
The French government called a meeting of this committee to be held in Paris in June, 1921. The Paris conference was in session during June, July and August, of this year. While its conclusions are not binding upon any of the governments, they are to be used as a basis of discussion and action at the next world's conference on communications.
These recommendations of the technical committee are subject to additions at the present time. As the world's conference will largely control the classification of wave length or available "circuits" and other regulations, it has been suggested that if the Independently-owned telephone companies desire allotment of special wave lengths for their general emergency use in case of storm or breaks in their wire toll lines, for relieving their over-worked toll lines from their checking and routine messages and for ordering up long distance connections, etc.--their requirements should be submitted to proper authorities before the interallied committee completes its recommendations.
In view of the foregoing observations, it is my opinion, that Independent telephony has nothing to fear from radiotelephony, but has much to gain by taking prompt action and being among the first in the working out of the general worldwide plan, and in getting that to which the 8,000 or more Independently-owned telephone companies, with their approximate 5,000,000 subscribers throughout the United States, are reasonably entitled.