Mattar had a phone installed so that he could call ahead if he had any issues. Presumably this would have been the old mobile networks where you would call a mobile operator, and they would patch you thru to whatever number you were calling.
The GQ: Back in the old days, how easy was it on the old timey car phones to access another network outside of your home area–or were all the mobile operators (literally) on the same wavelength? I remember that even in the early cell phone days in the mid 1980s, at least for some providers you had to ‘check in’ if you were in another city and wanted to make a call.
All cell phone users are on the same few wavelengths now.
The big difference between old-school radio phones and cell phones is that there were only five or six channels allocated to the former, and they required exclusive use of the channel. Even in metro areas only a small handful of users could be on the line at any one time, with the next plutocrat having to wait for an open line. And yes, since this was under Ma Bell, I believe the channels were universal across the US. (But of course you had to be a registered user, and I am not sure that being an RTP user in San Francisco automatically meant you could get on the line in LA.)
Cell phones are called that because there’s still a limited number of radio channels for their use, but usage is broken up into “cells” that can be several miles across out in the boonies, or a block across in Manhattan. (Or less.) By combining computerized control across all the cells, very high call density can be maintained and increased by making the cells in a location more and smaller. The system allocates the channels and the “handoff” between cells as you move.