Cellular One of Utah has activated six new cell transmitters in the Salt Lake area for a total of 22 cells providing coverage for Utahns using car and hand-held cellular telephones.

Randy Orison, manager of the Salt Lake office of Cellular One (competitor to US West Cellular, the other company providing local cellular phone service) said the $3 million expansion of cell sites will increase and fine tune the company's cellular capacity, enhance the clarity of calls and improve overall efficiency in the system.In addition, he said, the popularity of compact, hand-held cellular phones that operate at .6 watts (car cellular phones operate at 3.0 watts) work better in the expanded system.

Orison said Cellular One has been increasing its customer base by 50 percent or more during the past five years - a hefty rate considering that some industry watchers contend cellular growth has peaked. He said customer capacity would have become an issue in the future without the expansion.

The recent expansion is only one cell fewer than the original network between Salt Lake and Ogden established in 1986 when Cellular One began business in this area, said Orison. Cellular One now operates a total of 26 cell sites and has grown from two employees to 137.

Cellular One recently added Boise service. Next year, Orison said, Utah customers will be able to travel to the Idaho capital without leaving the cellular umbrella.

He describes a cell site as an "environmentally safe" microwave transmitter that costs $450,000 to $500,000. "Cellular engineering is absolutely critical to the cellular customer," said Orison. "It determines the clarity and reliability of a cellular telephone call."

Cellular One, a division of McCaw Cellular Communications, based in Kirkland, Wash., began providing cellular phone service in Utah in 1986.

On Tuesday, May 21, AT&T will present Cellular One of Utah with an award citing the company for "excellence in cellular system engineering" for the Pacific Northwest/Rocky Mountain region of McCaw's operations.

"We're thrilled to receive this recognition," Orison said. "It's a nice indicator of how close we are to achieving our goal of developing the top Cellular One system nationally."

He said the engineering behind a cellular system is critical to customers because it dictates the reliability of the system and the voice clarity of calls. The AT&T award was based on such factors as percentage of established calls vs. call attempts, cell site hand-offs per call, percentage of hand-off failures vs. attempts and percentage of dropped calls vs. established calls.

When cellular telephoners are moving, such as in a vehicle, the calls are "handed off" from cell to cell as the caller moves through the area.