#TBT: Consumer confusion about digital service; Baby Bell mergers; Side-eying 2.3 GHz auction … this week in 1996

Editor’s Note: RCR Wireless News goes all in for “Throwback Thursdays,” tapping into our archives to resuscitate the top headlines from the past. Fire up the time machine, put on the sepia-tinted shades, set the date for #TBT and enjoy the memories!

Consumers who don’t have digital service already think they do

Digital service may not be the carrot that attracts consumers to personal communications services and digital cellular providers. According to a study by Economic & Management Consultants International Inc., 73 percent of existing wireless phone users in the United States believe they have digital wireless service. But only about 2 million U.S. subscribers actually use digital service, said Washington, D.C.-based EMCI. “The primary reason for the misconception is that the majority of cellular users and people in general view the wireless industry as very high tech, and they immediately associate it with being digital,” said Tom Ross, EMCI consultant. Ross said consumers’ beliefs will be a hurdle for carriers planning to offer digital services. Providers will need to concentrate on marketing the service’s enhanced capabilities, such as short messaging service, caller ID and longer battery life, rather than emphasizing digital technology. “I think people really don’t want some technology shoved in their face,” said Ross. … Read more

FCC tries to work out wireless affordability

WASHINGTON-After eight months of wrangling, the Federal-State Joint Board released its proposal Nov. 7 to ensure affordable telecommunications services to all consumers, including hospitals, libraries and schools. At first blush, it looks like wireless operators may be paying in to a multibillion-dollar universal-service fund for years without being able to draw from it. The Federal Communications Commission will put the recommendations under consideration, which should include a public-comment period, until May 8, when it must adopt a finished order. According to the recommendation, the criteria for receiving universal-service support includes being a common carrier and offering all of the services inherent to a common carrier. However, the board also recommended that all telecommunications carriers that provide interstate services would have to contribute to the universal service fund, the amount of which would depend on a carrier’s gross intra- and interstate revenues net of payments made to other carriers for service. … Read more

John McCain takes on top telecom policy slot

WASHINGTON-Maverick Arizona Republican John McCain will reign as top telecommunications policymaker in the Senate as a result of Commerce Committee Chairman Larry Pressler’s (R-S.D.) defeat. Despite accumulating a huge war chest in a pricey re-election campaign, Pressler could not hold off Tim Johnson, a Democratic congressman from South Dakota. Pressler has served since 1978 in the Senate, was that chamber’s architect of the historic telecom bill and was a driving force for spectrum reform. A bill drafted earlier this year by Pressler to deregulate the airwaves was expected to go forward next year. It still could, but under new sponsorship. McCain will succeed Pressler as chairman of the Commerce Committee, one of Congress’ most powerful posts that accords the gavel holder with jurisdiction over a broad range of U.S. industries such as telecommunications, transportation, aviation and fishing. Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) has more seniority than McCain, but is believed more interested in another plum slot: the appropriations committee. … Read more

Ericsson to provide digital devices for AT&T

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C.-Ericsson Inc. announced it will provide AT&T Wireless Services Inc. with digital wireless phones. The agreement, which is the largest Ericsson has ever signed with any single U.S. customer for wireless phones, is valued at more than $300 million. Ericsson said it will deliver AT&T Digital PCS and other cellular phones beginning in January. AT&T is purchasing Ericsson dual-mode handsets, including 800 MHz and 1900 MHz, dual-band phones and Time Division Multiple Access single-band phones for its Digital PCS cellular customers, said Ericsson. The agreement also includes the new Ericsson AF 738 analog cellular personal telephone, as well as other analog products. … AT&T Wireless launched digital cellular service last month in 40 major markets, blurring the distinction between cellular and personal communications services by calling it Digital PCS. … Read more

Baby Bell mergers move forward

WASHINGTON, D.C.-The U.S. Department of Justice said last week the scheduled merger between SBC Communications Inc. and Pacific Telesis Group does not violate federal anti-trust laws. In addition, two other mergers are nearing final approval. Shareholders of Bell Atlantic Corp. voted overwhelmingly Friday to approve the company’s proposed merger with Nynex Corp. Nynex shareholders approved the merger Nov. 6. The deal is scheduled to close the first quarter of 1997. The Justice department also approved the purchase of Continental Cablevision by U.S. West Inc., on the condition that Continental sell its 11 percent holding in Teleport Communications Group Inc. New York-based Teleport is a competitive access provider operating at 38 GHz in four major cities, and competes with U S West for business telephone customers. The SBC-Pacific Telesis deal is expected to close early next year. … Read more

Industry side-eyes a 2.3 GHz auction

WASHINGTON-The wireless telecommunications industry is leery of a new budget-driven, flexible-use auction proposal that could create more competition for carriers on Main Street and Wall Street. The auction of the 2305-2320 MHz and 2345-2360 MHz bands has to begin by April 15 and must be completed by Sept. 30, the last day of fiscal 1997. At the same time, the Federal Communications Commission has shored up rules for auctioning unserved cellular areas at 800 MHz. The 2.3 GHz spectrum, part of a block originally intended for digital satellite radio service, was freed up to help pay for the $6.5 billion cost of White House programs in the FY97 appropriations package negotiated by congressional Republicans and the Clinton administration before lawmakers adjourned the 104th session in late September to campaign for re-election. Even before the 30 megahertz Wireless Communications Service auction plan was official, the wireless industry voiced skepticism and even outrage about it. … Read more

Check out the RCR Wireless News Archives for more stories from the past.

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