A wireless remote telemetry system which uses low-cost remote communication devices operating on existing wireless communication systems in order to provide real-time reading and control of remote devices. In an embodiment applicable to utility service, consumption of electrical power among a population of customers is measured by a utility metering system having a wireless communication capability. The metering system comprises a remote metering unit which communicates with a central controller over existing wireless communication systems, such as cellular base stations, using existing communication standards. The remote metering unit transmits various messages over a shared random access channel to a central controller. The central controller transmits messages to the remote metering unit over a paging channel. The remote metering unit may operate in a half-duplex mode only. Furthermore, the remote metering unit may provide a gateway to advanced consumer services at the remote location.