AT&T cell phone features fraud prevention

PARSIPPANY, N.J. -- December 5, 1995 -- AT&T today announced a new portable cellular phone that is one of the first on the market with a Bell Laboratories-patented feature designed to reduce cellular phone fraud. The AT&T Portable Cellular Telephone 3740 will be available at AT&T Phone Center stores and select national retailers in January 1996.

The "Authentication" feature, or "A-Key" in short, is expected to be deployed by major cellular service providers in 1996 as an effective defense against fraud. According to the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, cellular phone fraud costs the industry nearly half a billion dollars a year.

Another major attraction of the AT&T 3740 is its user interface. The unit is the result of extensive design effort to make it comfortable to hold and easy to use for both experienced and first-time users.

"This phone was virtually designed by consumers themselves," said Peter Skarzynski, marketing vice president of AT&T's global wireless products group. "Extensive focus group interviews helped us discover consumers' likes and dislikes for the look and feel of the phone, and the features they want and those they don't. We have created a cellular phone that feels comfortable in the hand, conforms well to the shape of the face, and is feature-rich for the veteran user, yet easy-to-use for the first-time customer."

The A-key is a secret value that is unique to each individual cellular phone, and it is registered with the cellular service provider. Every time a consumer places a call from an AT&T 3740 cellular phone, that unique value is used, together with a special algorithm, to generate a value that must be matched with the result of the same calculation made by the cellular carrier. If the two values do not match, the carrier will block the call. Bell Laboratories has patented several aspects of this procedure.

With current cell phones, an equipment serial number, which identifies the calling phone, is transmitted before each call. In some areas, thieves with cellular scanning devices can intercept the serial number over the air and program it into other cell phones. Then all calls made by these "clones" are fraudulently charged to the account of the original cell phone. In areas with high cell phone fraud rates, customers are required to enter a Personal Identification Number (PIN) before every call in order to prevent fraud.

The AT&T 3740 offers maximum fraud protection without requiring customers to key in a PIN number with each call.

The 3740 has a contoured profile and a large, three-line liquid crystal display screen. Control keys are few but they are highly functional. Basic status of the phone such as signal strength, battery power level and whether the phone is in contact with the cellular network are constantly displayed. Clear on-screen instructions guide the caller step by step through a "menu" to use the various features. AT&T Microelectronics' ME 1604 digital signal processor chip contributes to the phone's compact size and long battery life.

Additional information about the AT&T Portable Cellular Telephone 3740

For both the experienced user and the first-time user alike, the 3740 has on-screen instructions for easy access to a number of sophisticated calling features. For those who make calls to just a few numbers, up to 9 numbers can be easily programmed for one-button calling. For instance, one could program the phone to automatically dial home by touching 1, the office by touching 2, voice mail by touching 3, and the parents' house by touching 4, etc. When a call comes in, pressing any key will answer the call.

The AT&T 3740 also supports advanced calling features such as caller ID, short-message service (a service that transmits and shows preset messages up to 14 characters long on the screen), voice-mail indicator, and automatic personal ID number (PIN), when and where these services are provided by the cellular service provider. At 8.5 oz, the unit is also among the lightest of entry-level cellular phones on the market.

Other features of the 3740 include a 60-number alphanumeric memory; 70-minute talk time and a 10-hour standby time; a call log listing the last five incoming and five outgoing calls; three timers to keep track of individual calls and all calls; the preprogrammed insertion of calling card number for credit card calls, and the self-activation feature that allows customers to purchase the unit and have it activated, ready to use by just making a toll-free call.

Accessories available include an extended-life battery that allows 120 minutes of talk time and 16 hours of standby time; a charger that allows the car battery to power the phone while the cell-phone battery is being charged; a booster kit that increases the phone's performance in weak coverage areas; and a rapid charger. A handsfree car kit that contains virtually everything needed to use the phone safely while driving will be available later in 1996.

Consumers needing information on the 3740 and other AT&T wireless products may call 1-800-232-5179, or visit any of the more than 300 AT&T Phone Center stores around the country. To locate the nearest AT&T Phone Center store, customers should check the white pages of local telephone directories or call 1-800-858-3718.