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!

Going for broke in the Windy City
In Chicago, where cellular penetration is highest and rates are lowest among the nation’s 10 most populous markets, Ameritech Cellular Services and SBC Communications Inc. are fighting it out for customers. And competition stands only to intensify once challengers in personal communications services, including the mighty AT&T Wireless Services Inc., PCS PrimeCo L.P. and the forthcoming C-block auction winners, blow into town. The portion of Chicago’s population using cellular phones is expected to approach 18 percent this month, according to Herschel Shosteck of Herschel Shosteck Associates Ltd. Trailing Chicago are Houston with an expected penetration of 16 percent, Dallas at 14.8 percent and Washington, D.C./Baltimore at 12 percent. However, March penetration forecasts for New York and Los Angeles are only 4.5 percent and 10.5 percent respectively, said Shosteck. Why such variation? “Chicago has the lowest rates in town,” said Shosteck. … Read more

888 numbers proposed for the auction block
WASHINGTON-The Clinton administration last week proposed to auction toll-free 888 telephone numbers, a potential hot-button issue for Congress that could hurt paging operators in the near term and pocket telephone firms in the future. The proposal, pegged to raise $700 million over three years, is part of the White House’s proposed $1.64 trillion budget for fiscal 1997. The administration wants to bring in $1.6 billion overall from auctions in fiscal 1997 and $32 billion by 2002, projections that depend on Congress expanding the Federal Communications Commission’s auction authority to encompass private wireless, broadcast and service area codes. FCC Chairman Reed Hundt, an avid auction proponent who will have generated more than $16 billion from the sale of wireless licenses after the C-block personal communications services auction ends, supports 888 telephone number auctions. “We are opposed to the auctioning of any telephone numbers,” said Jay Kitchen, president of the Personal Communications Industry Association. The paging industry depends heavily on 800 numbers, which have been depleted because of their popularity and will be succeeded by new 888 numbers. There are 7.5 million 888 telephone numbers, suggesting perhaps the Office of Management and Budget expects to get around $100 for each number. … Read more

Unified communications wanted

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.-Eighty-two percent of business cellular subscribers want a single wireless handset that can be used as an office phone indoors and as a mobile phone outdoors, concludes a two-year study conducted by Alexander Resources Inc. Alexander said the biggest threat to cellular and personal communications services carriers is the inability to use a wireless phone as an office telephone. It also represents the greatest hurdle in achieving the one phone and one phone number capability envisioned for new cellular and PCS systems, the company said. “With 9.7 million business users accounting for 34 percent of all cellular subscribers and 63 percent of all cellular revenue, not meeting their needs for WBCS (wireless business communications systems) can have serious long-term consequences for any cellular or PCS carriers,” said Jerry Kaufman, president of Alexander. The company predicts that these customer needs will be met by carriers offering new wireless business communications systems. The new systems use radio signals to link a wireless telephone to a business’ existing public branch exchange, Centrex or Key telephone system. Alexander said the WBCS allows these new wireless telephones to operate as a standard business telephone indoors, without airtime charges, and as a standard cellular or PCS phone outdoors. … Read more

Analyzing the shiny, new Telecom Act of 1996
Last month’s passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 heralds the industry’s most fundamental structural change since AT&T Corp. was split up in 1984. Traditional barriers separating industry sectors are crumbling. Wireless will play a key role in the industry’s transformation. While few provisions of the lengthy bill deal specifically with wireless, the shifting competitive landscape will dramatically alter the wireless business. Although many important implementation details remain to be worked out by the Federal Communications Commission and state regulators, irreversible changes already have begun. The legislation directly affects wireless businesses by facilitating the implementation of personal communications services and digital cellular. Under the new law, state and local governments can’t arbitrarily ban wireless antennas. Although local zoning authority was maintained, local authorities can’t discriminate among providers of functionally equivalent services. Regulations on antenna placement may not preclude the provisioning of wireless services. Requests for site approval must be acted on within a reasonable time, and decisions must be in writing and supported by substantial evidence. State or local governments can’t regulate the placement or construction of wireless facilities based on the environmental effects of radio frequency emissions as long as the facilities comply with FCC regulations. … Read more

Cellular customer numbers ‘only’ rise 40%
WASHINGTON, D.C.-A total of 33.8 million people were cellular customers in the United States at the end of 1995, a 40 percent rise compared with the 24 million customers reported in 1994, according to the latest semi-annual report by the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association. It’s not the 50-percent growth experienced two years ago, but CTIA remains optimistic because 9.6 million are new customers.“More than 5.6 million new customers chose to sign up in the past six months alone,” said CTIA President Thomas Wheeler. “That’s the equivalent of adding 1,278 new customers every hour.” CTIA gathered data on current cellular systems and didn’t include personal communications services. Cellular revenues for the past six months were $10.3 billion, 34 percent higher than the second half revenues of 1994. … Read more

Telecom mergers are hot, hot, hot
NEW YORK-The total number and dollar volume of mergers and acquisitions in the global telecommunications market reached an all-time high in 1995, according to a report by Broadview Associates L.P. of Fort Lee, N.J. Cable and wireless transactions accounted for 69 percent of this activity in the telecommunications market, said the report by Broadview, a leading mergers and acquisition advisory firm to the information industry. Worldwide, the number of these transactions rose sharply to 495, up from 297 in 1994. Within that global total, the number of North American mergers and acquisitions also nearly doubled, to 324 from 181. In terms of aggregate dollars, merger and acquisition activity overall climbed 45 percent to $54.7 billion last year, compared with $37.7 billion in 1994. The value of this telecom activity in North America accounted for $31.1 billion of the worldwide total. It rose by 14 percent, or nearly $4 billion, in 1995 compared with 1994. … Read more

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

The post #TBT: Cheap cellular in Chicago; 40% customer growth; hot telecom M&A … this week in 1996 appeared first on RCR Wireless News.