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!

FCC delays paging spectrum auction
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) delayed the paging services auction until 24 February, 2000. The FCC said in June that it would auction 2,499 licenses for paging. The licenses, at 929-930 MHz and 931-932 MHz, were originally scheduled for auction in December. Approximately 14,000 licenses in the lower bands will be auctioned later. Several legal issues could cause further changes in the auction. Pending federal court cases are examining whether the FCC should auction paging licenses when so many areas are heavily encumbered. WinStar Communications said it was awarded 18 additional licenses from the FCC to operate in the 38 GHz band. … Read more

Using Bluetooth for cellular ‘politeness zones’
MELBOURNE, Australia-Someone is just settling into a film or play, conversing intimately in a restaurant or addressing the ball at the first hole-and a mobile phone ring interrupts. While usually a fine tool for keeping in touch, the mobile phone all of a sudden becomes irritating. Such interruptions are hardly surprising given the general, and very public, use of mobiles these days, particularly when coupled with waning regard to etiquette. For all the convenience and communicative powers of cellular networking, the many melodic rings of the mobile phone remain to some a modern public nuisance. It used to be that operators issued brochures to keep us mindful of our mobile manners. Needless to say, these efforts tended to fall on deaf ears. Mobile phone jammers gave businesses sensitive to patron disquiet a more advanced option of prompting users to button those phones.That was, until the Australian Communications Authority (ACA) outlawed jammers in March, ironically citing “social costs”–if jammers were allowed to proliferate–of the ban. Enter the South Australian-based researcher, the Centre for Telecommunications Information Networking (CTIN). Engineers at CTIN believe they have hit on another, more sophisticated technical solution. Rather than crudely disabling radiocommunications within a certain area, CTIN’s device, named Politeness, only serves to silence the mobile phone’s ring. In other words, unlike with jammers, mobile calls can still be answered and made. Employing Bluetooth wireless technology developed by Nokia and Ericsson, among others, Politeness works by emitting a low-powered radio signal within the premises of a business, which CTIN labels a “politeness zone,” and automatically switching mobile phones to silent mode. Bluetooth works via wireless, short-range radio, enabling mobile phone users to connect to a range of devices-like earphones or a laptop-without the need for cables. Unlike infrared, Bluetooth doesn’t require line of sight but connects devices within about a 10-meter radius. “Our approach has been driven by a desire to build polite behavior into the technology without punishing other users of mobile telephones in the same geographic area,” John Leske, CTIN research engineer, said. “It’s a very easy technical solution to a social problem. … The real problem is that human beings don’t always remember to turn off their phones in the appropriate locations or at the appropriate times. But the use of jamming devices is an extreme way of solving the problem and creates technical difficulties for other mobile telephone users in the vicinity of the device, but out of the designated jamming zone.” … Read more

Around the world: DT buys UK’s One2One
Deutsche Telekom is acquiring U.K. operator One2One from Cable & Wireless and MediaOne Group. Deutsche Telekom Chairman Ron Sommer called the acquisition “key” to Deutsche Telekom’s international strategy and said it is an important step toward offering a cross-border mobile product. British Telecom (BT) said it will acquire for US$5 billion Securicor’s 40-percent shareholding in BT Cellnet, the United Kingdom’s second-largest cellular operator-behind Vodafone-with about 5 million subscribers. BT already owns 60-percent of BT Cellnet, so the deal would give it full ownership. … Read more

SBC/Ameritech merger conditions include spectrum licenses
WASHINGTON-SBC Communications Inc. and Ameritech Corp. agreed to include wireless issues in their proposed conditions for license transfer, said the Personal Communications Industry Association. “In a nutshell, we are pleased that the scope has been expanded,” said Angela Giancarlo, PCIA director of federal regulatory affairs. The new proposed conditions come as the Federal Communications Commission is in the final stages of developing conditions upon which the transfer of Ameritech licenses to SBC can be completed. The license transfer is seen as a necessary step in the anticipated $76.9 billion merger of the two companies. The FCC does not officially review mergers, but reviews license transfers. The new conditions contain a PCIA-sponsored proposal to include requests from any interconnecting carrier rather than just competitive local exchange carriers. The proposal recognizes federal jurisdiction with regards to mediation with wireless companies. SBC/Ameritech also proposed a default pricing scheme during mediation and negotiation so interconnection can begin to be implemented before negotiations on a final agreement are completed. This provides interim relief during negotiations, Giancarlo said. SBC/Ameritech originally agreed to 26 conditions-with attached fines of potentially $2 billion-in an attempt to have their merger approved by the FCC. The FCC put these out for comment and additional suggestions. … Read more

What does it take to be a winner in PCS?
PCS carriers can be credited with spurring huge demand for wireless service in the United States, but they continue to struggle with brand awareness and perceptions customers have about coverage. “It’s a brand game and a consumer-marketing game,” said Andrew Sukawaty, president of nationwide carrier Sprint PCS, which has led the industry three consecutive quarters in subscriber additions. “People who walk into a store and look on a shelf and see the Sprint brand along with a brand they’ve never heard of, what are they going to get?” Though industry experts would argue that brand name alone doesn’t win customers, a strong brand name does earn a company consideration as a potential choice. Peter Dresch, director of telecommunications market analysis with J.D. Power and Associates, said long-distance carriers and regional telephone companies continue to garner the highest marks for customer satisfaction in a majority of their wireless markets, due in large part to their brand names. “Across those markets, it is the local [regional Bell operating company]or the AT&T and Sprint that will come out No. 1,” said Dresch. “They are generally up there on corporate capability, reputation and brand.” The problem for PCS carriers, said Bob Egan, research director with the Gartner Group, a firm that caters to Fortune 500 end users, is they continue to compete on price, rather than researching target audiences in a way that will draw in profitable customers. “It really comes down to the failure of these companies to develop a brand that is something other than saying, `hey, I’m a cheaper alternative in the market’,” said Egan. Analysts point to VoiceStream Wireless as a company that is beginning to achieve brand awareness in targeting the mass consumer. … Read more

The wonders of web-based customer care
NEW YORK-Wireless carriers can only imagine scaling back their costly call-flooded customer support centers and slashing the overhead that comes with them. And wireless users long to regain those wasted afternoons on hold with a receiver glued to their ears only to find they’ve reached the wrong department for customer support. Help may be on the way. With Web-based support systems starting to hit the market, the quality of customer service is limited only by a consumer’s ability to access a carrier’s extranet. Consumers can activate wireless services and take charge of any number of support issues through the life cycle of a wireless contract. Mobile phone users can say goodbye to testy customer service operators. Carriers, meanwhile, can red-line a nasty cost center. So-called “self-provisioning,” in which consumers tap into the Web for support, is just in its infancy among wireless carriers. Scandinavian countries, where computer penetration is high and consumers are progressive, are taking a lead in the concept. But even in the United States-where fears of subscription and credit-card fraud threaten to delay Internet-based customer care-browser developers say they are working with carriers to develop viable systems. They promise these efforts will bear fruit by year’s end. … Read more

An online Customer Service Lounge, oh my!
JACKSON, Miss.-SkyTel Communications Inc. opened an Internet-based customer service and message retrieval center called the Customer Service Lounge. From its Web site, SkyTel customers may access their accounts or submit e-mail questions to customer service personnel. Customers can use Page Recall to access their messages if they are out of coverage or if their pager is not available. … Read more

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

The post #TBT: Bluetooth for cellular ‘politeness zones’; parsing the PCS market; the wonders of web-based customer care … this week in 1999 appeared first on RCR Wireless News.


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