Richard H. Frenkiel

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Richard H. Frenkiel

Richard (Dick) Frenkiel was born on March 4, 1943 in Brooklyn, New York. He attended Tufts University and Rutgers University, emerging with an aura of competence in mechanical engineering.

He joined Bell Laboratories, where for two years he was involved in the design of recorded announcement machines. Abruptly, in the waning days of 1965, he was offered a chance to become involved in the early planning of cellular systems. While his practical knowledge of radio technology may have caused some concern, his abilities in the design of announcement machines were no longer in doubt. He therefore embraced this opportunity eagerly, beginning an involvement that was to last more than sixteen years.

During those early years, Dick had the good fortune to be paired with Philip T. Porter, a cellular pioneer who combined radio knowledge with innovation and a willingness to teach. They focused on cell geometry, vehicle locating and handoff; and overall system organization, leading to an early system proposal. With Porter and Joel S. Engel, Dick was an author of the "High Capacity Mobile Telephone System Feasibility Studies and System Plan" which was filed with the FCC in 1971 and became an important cellular text.

After an obligatory "growth experience" at Corporate Headquarters, during which he acquired several suits, Dick returned to Bell Labs, where he managed a group of systems engineers. Their focus was on system architecture, with emphasis on vehicle-locating techniques, channel parameters for spectral efficiency, and methods for efficient cell splitting. His "underlaid cell" concept allowed cellular systems to combine fragmentary grids of split cells with the continuity of an underlaid grid of larger cells. This allowed gradual transitions in cell size, which greatly reduced cost and logistic complexity while increasing trunking efficiency.

Dick was head of the Mobile Systems Engineering Department at Bell Labs during a five-year period which saw the transition from experimental systems to commercial service. Using data from the experimental systems in Newark and Chicago, and from large scale computer simulations, his department evaluated cellular performance, refined operating algorithms, and defined a set of interface specifications to allow nationwide compatibility among cellular operators. He served on the EIA Committee which proposed the cellular Rules which ultimately were adopted by the FCC.

Dick is now at AT&T Information Systems Laboratories, involved in the development of radio products. He lives with his wife Maizie, who teaches a well-known dead language, and his daughter Kathy, who is searching for the right college. His son Scott is a Junior at Rutgers. He tolerates jogging, enjoys eating, and spends much time sitting with his feet in an elevated position.

Mr. Frenkiel is co-recipient of the 1987 Alexander Graham Bell Medal, along with Joel S. Engel and William C. Jakes, Jr., "For fundamental contributions to the theory, design and deployment of cellular mobile communications systems."