#TBT: Managing expectations; Cellular retail goes virtual; Wireless and USF … 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 those sepia-tinted shades, set the date for #TBT and enjoy the memories!

‘Expectations being set that we cannot deliver at this time’

Launching new technology into a market involves more than just technological know-how. The expectations of all parties must be managed in order to control the risks, analysts say. System operators must be responsible for the expectations they create in the minds of customers. Equipment manufacturers must manage expectations about delivery. Expectations shared with the distributor must be handled as well. “We’ve consistently seen expectations being set that we cannot deliver at this time and point,” said Richard Siber, wireless analyst with Andersen Consulting. “And there are a whole group of variables creating these expectations. It’s not coming from one channel or avenue.” U.S. consumers have gone from rotary phones to touch-tone to cordless in recent years. In the American marketplace, new and improved products are constantly being introduced at attractive prices. Consequently, consumers now expect this progress, Siber said. “Without high expectations, we wouldn’t see innovation. But we have to be careful. If I have a product that I say is as good as wireline service and it can be used anywhere, chances are the customer will buy it. Then they find out they can’t use it anywhere. So they churn to the competing carrier and find out it’s the same situation. Some PCS carriers are exploiting this to their advantage,” Siber said. … Read more

Cellular-emulating ‘extension phones’ under fire

IRVINE, Calif.-A federal court in Santa Ana, Calif. has ordered The Cellular Extension Co. to stop creating so-called “extension phones” that duplicate the electronic serial numbers from carrier-activated phones. In a lawsuit brought by AirTouch Communications Inc., the court ruled that the defendant was violating Federal Communications Commission orders and regulations banning the imitation of ESNs on cellular phones, AirTouch said. Emulation might be attractive in families where more than one person carries a phone but a single cellular number would be sufficient. Phones that emulate an activated ESN aren’t billed for monthly service charges, only for the airtime used. “AirTouch Cellular is pleased that the District Court in Santa Ana agrees with the FCC ruling that cellular extension phones and ESN emulation are illegal,” said Brian Jones, executive vice president and general manager of the company’s Los Angeles market. “This is just another form of cellular fraud, and we will continue to take strong action to stop this practice,” he said. The court also ordered The Cellular Extension Co. to provide AirTouch with its business records pertaining to the altered phones, including names, addresses and telephone numbers of customers for whom the company emulated phones. … Read more

AT&T orders a million Lucent TDMA cell phones

MURRAY HILL, N.J.-Lucent Technologies Inc. said AT&T Wireless Services Inc. ordered more than one million of Lucent’s Time Division Multiple Access digital cellular phones to be supplied during the next two years. The companies said the contract is valued at more than $300 million. Initial deliveries are scheduled for later this year. The 6720 is a dual-mode, analog and digital phone developed by Bell Labs, Lucent’s research and development division. The phone supports Interim Standard-136 digital cellular network features and will be able to deliver short message service, caller ID, sleep mode, anti-fraud authentication capability, voice mail and voice-mail notification. … Read more

Hear about the latest via AirMedia Live!

CHICAGO-Paging Network Inc. and software developer Ex Machina Inc. announced the rollout of a wireless, Internet-based news, entertainment and messaging network called AirMedia Live! PageNet said it will carry AirMedia Live! network broadcasts and individual alerts over its nationwide FLEX-enabled frequency this summer. The service is designed to broadcast real-time alerts and notifications of breaking events and news information to personal computer users via wireless. Ex Machina said its AirMedia Live! receiver kit has a suggested retail price of $200 and includes an external pyramid-shaped wireless receiver, a 16-bit ISA PC Card, remote control software, multimedia viewers that filter and organize incoming customized information with embedded links to the Internet and on-line services. … Read more

Check out this newfangled ‘store’ on the ‘World Wide Web

A new retail outlet for cellular is opening nationwide, but there won’t be any sales people and you won’t find the address in the yellow pages. Denver-based nLYTn Technologies Corp. is opening Cellmart on the World Wide Web, a virtual store where consumers can find buying tips, compare providers’ prices and order cellular service, phones and accessories all online. The company got its start in early 1995, with the intention to provide a better carrier billing system. As the business progressed, Cellmart founders Yvonne Berry and Trent Sutton recognized an untapped market. “Instead of helping customers with billing costs, we’re helping them with acquisition costs,” said Sutton. Cellmart is easy, say its founders. Browsers are provided four initial options. “Learn” provides buying tips, “shop” takes users to carriers’ service information, “contact” connects users to nLYTn and “home” returns users to Cellmart’s introductory menu. Select “shop” and a nationwide map pops up on the screen. Users choose one state, then a city, and the names of the licensed carriers in that area appear. Once browsers click on a carrier’s cyber door, they enter that carrier’s “store.” Inside, all information-educational or promotional-comes from that carrier. … Read more

Early M2M for vending machines

WASHINGTON-Following on the heels of a recent Federal Communications Commission decision to allow interactive video and data services licensees to provide mobile services, Chantilly, Va.-based Eon Corp. announced its test of a two-way messaging/monitoring service catering to vending-machine owners in Monterrey, Mexico. Prior to the FCC’s May 16 decision, IVDS operators were not allowed to use their channels for any purpose other than point-to-multipoint, multipoint-to-point or short-distance fixed communications. The new flexibility gives IVDS licensees a way to use their channels to provide mobile data and information services to generate revenues while they continue to develop interactive video applications. “The FCC responded favorably to our petition of two years ago,” said Hal Turner, Eon’s new president and chief executive officer. “Finally, the IVDS industry is getting a boost. Now we can compete with narrowband carriers and other wireless providers. We repositioned Eon, which had been characterized as a research-and-development group for interactive TV, although that market hasn’t evolved. Messaging now has been added, allowing us to offer two-way paging on an ancillary basis to subscribers.” Eon plans to use its IVDS network that, in partnership with World Interactive Network Inc., is the largest IVDS network in the country-touching 80 million pops-to provide automated meter reading, home security, load management and utilities management. Its Mexican test, which encompasses more than 100 vending machines, is fine-tuning the monitoring system that will allow owner/stockers to track the temperature and inventory of individual machines that are hooked up to Eon’s microcell and cellular network. … Read more

Comcast sells some of its stake in Nextel

NEW YORK-Comcast Corp., a Philadelphia-based cable television company, late last month sold 3.3 million shares of stock it held in Nextel Communications Inc., a wireless communications provider headquartered in Rutherford, N.J. Comcast, which originally purchased the shares for $12.25 each, sold them for prices ranging from $17.75 to $20.50 each, according to published newspaper reports. The company still owns about 5.5 million shares, or 2 percent, of Nextel, and has options to purchase an additional 25 million shares at $16 each. … Read more

Wireless is a non-factor in USF

WASHINGTON-Wireless services still haven’t figured into the unserved, underserved, high-cost and rural area matrix in a significant manner when it comes to universal service. Meeting at the Federal Communications Commission June 5, the Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service focused on how much it will cost to connect poor and rural subscribers to a communications network and how carriers will be reimbursed to do so. Most panelists based their comments on current local exchange carriers and their existing ties to the Universal Service Fund; it is these carriers, in many instances, that have not built out the network to serve 100 percent of their populations, even though reimbursement funding has been available to do so. Panelist Glenn Brown, U S West Inc.’s executive director of public policy, did not consider wireless technologies when he wrote his company’s comments regarding benchmark cost models, saying that he put “an arbitrary cutoff” on wireless- and satellite-based technologies. “They could go in the model now,” he added, “because the economics have changed.” Even wireless proponent Hatfield & Associates hasn’t included wireless in any of its modelings, saying “there aren’t enough systems off the shelf yet.” Dennis Weller, a senior economist for GTE Corp., did open the door for wireless carriers to enter the local exchange marketplace, at least in unserved or underserved areas or in high-cost areas, by saying reimbursement funding “should go to any carrier willing to be a LEC or a carrier of last resort.” … Read more

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

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