While Autotel is not a system employed by the Bell System in the USA, it is interesting nonetheless and as there is little information on it on the web, I have added the material below.

In 2016 I received a message from Peter Trill, one of the designers of the Autotel format, and below are the pertinent sections, put here to assist the historical record:

I worked decades in Radio Engineering for the BC Telephone Company in Vancouver, British Columbia. In the late 70s, under the Trans Canada Telephone auspices, all Canadian provincial telephone companies were invited to submit technical proposals for an automated radiotelephone system that could replace the existing MTS and IMTS network systems. The impetus for this was the extensive need for more mobile telephone capacity, especially  in the resource sectors of British Columbia and Alberta that had bigger customer bases than Toronto or New York.

Only the Telcos in Alberta and BC finally offered proposals for working systems. Alberta’s system was called Aurora, and was based on Systcoms/Novatel mobile and network equipment. My company, as a system designer, established the Autotel System, for which the network equipment was provided by Glenayre. Although the first Autotel mobiles were Harris Alphas with Glenayre logic boards and head, the Mobile Specification was an open document, so that any manufacturer could market a mobile that met the spec. A total of seven entrants produced working mobiles, but only two companies besides Glenayre came to market – Spilsbury of Vancouver, and Sedata of Montreal.  

Through this development, I was BC Tel’s design authority for acceptance of all Autotel mobile products. It was interesting to see your mention of Stephen Inness and Fred Ashe of Xilex. They were working on an Autotel mobile as well. I knew them both, and spent many hours with Stephen when he was fine-tuning his logic software. He was a brilliant designer.  

Your Chapter 10 says that Autotel was a proprietary format similar to IMTS. The truth is that it was more similar to the upcoming AMPS system. Autotel used digital-message handshaking with the base-stations for call placement and receipt. AMPS does this too, but at a data rate of 10 kbs. The Autotel signaling data rate will go down an audio facility to the base-station! In designing the Autotel System, we used all the AMPS ideas that we liked, and left out those that we could do without. Within the province of BC, it was a fully automated roaming network, using the Datapac service links among all network terminals and their base-stations. Early AMPS cellular did not have roaming until many years later! An interesting requirement of the mobile spec was for mobiles to have MTS capability for customers in areas without Autotel coverage until the new network rolled out. Autotel went into service in 1983.  

It’s a fact that Autotel outlasted AMPS cellular in BC. The last Autotel call was placed by me April 1st, 2009. (I also placed the first  call – 1981, I think. I still have that Autotel phone). Autotel systems were also put into service outside of BC – in Canada’s Northwest Territories, in the U.S. in a couple of states (Colorado?), and in China, and possibly Saudi Arabia. With a 25-year history, it should be remembered as a successful mobile system, reaching a peak of 10,000 BC subscribers, using several hundred base-stations. Autotel was proposed for Hong Kong, but did not fly because it was a medium-capacity, not a high-capacity system.  

I’ve attached a picture of the most recent Glenayre Autotel – the GL 4040 head with a GL 4100 series radio. The Spilsbury radio was also used in an interim marriage between their radio and Glenayre logic and head (GL 2035). They later brought out an all-Spilsbury product which sold well. Concurrently, Glenayre offered their own package with radio (GL4100), logic and head (GL 4040). This package was an all-singing, all-dancing unit with multi-format compatibility.

 Peter Trill