Sprint Cellular Co. may not have completed its anticipated spinoff from Sprint Corp., but it is confident enough of its future to choose a new name.

The Chicago-based company will become Three-sixty Communications Co. if the spinoff is successful. The deal is expected to close in this year’s second quarter.

Three-sixty’s logo features the number 360 encircled in apple green.

“It’s bold. It’s powerful*…*unlike other corporate identities in our industry, which are either acronyms or tech-speak,” said Dennis Foster, president and chief executive officer of the new company. “Our new name implies that our people put you in the center of it all, no matter where you go,” Foster said. The company said the degree symbol is purposely positioned halfway outside the circle, indicating that wireless is needed to complete personal communications.

The name and logo were developed by Siegel & Gale, a New York-based brand design company. Apple green color will be distinctive in the wireless industry, where logos are predominantly red and blue, Sprint Cellular said. According to a recent national study, green is becoming a preferred, popular color in the United States..

Meanwhile, Sprint Cellular is quietly pushing the proper papers to bring about its tax-free spinoff, ignoring speculation that some of its scattered properties could become future candidates for sale.

Sprint Corp. wants to divest itself of its cellular properties to become a large player in the infant personal communications services industry. As a 40 percent owner in the Sprint Telecommunications Venture, Sprint holds PCS licenses in 29 major trading areas throughout the United States. According to government rules, Sprint is not allowed to have more than a 20 percent interest in a cellular provider serving 10 percent or more of the population in a given major trading area.

Since the Sprint brand name is being diverted to the PCS market, the new company had to develop and introduce a brand of its own. Industry analysts say the best way to power a brand name is through regional clusters, which means Three-sixty Communications may face several challenges.

“Contiguous service area is important because it enhances customer value, so it’s important to create this clustering,” said Sprint Cellular spokesman Sal Cinquegrani. “We know that people are using phones within their region, such as the Carolinas.”

The 12-year-old company, formerly Centel Cellular, offers wireless voice and data services to 1.4 million subscribers in 41 majority-owned metropolitan statistical areas and 46 majority-owned rural service areas. Sprint Cellular also has minority interests in 53 other MSAs and RSAs. Put all of Sprint Cellular’s markets together and you have the nation’s eighth largest cellular operator.

“We’ve led the industry in customer growth, in all our areas, and attribute the growth to our business strategies, clustering and pricing schemes,” said Cinquegrani.

Sprint has a fat cluster of markets in South and North Carolina, and another cluster in Indiana and Ohio. Sprint also has a large cluster in northern New Mexico, including the ski area of Taos and the state capital of Santa Fe, but Sprint Cellular doesn’t have the primary city of Albuquerque. That market is served by U S West Cellular and Southwestco Wireless L.P.

Other Sprint Cellular markets sit like lone trees on the prairie, such as Las Vegas, the only market Sprint Cellular has in the state of Nevada, with no holdings in the adjoining states of California and Arizona. Las Vegas has about 740,000 pops. The other cellular operator in Las Vegas is AT&T Wireless Services, which is operating a commercial Time Division Multiple Access system there.

Sprint Cellular installed a Code Division Multiple Access system in Las Vegas and is now beginning a friendly trial. “We haven’t set a time frame of when we’ll launch commercially, but we hope during mid-year,” said Cinquegrani. CDMA also is the technology of choice of U S West Cellular and AirTouch Cellular, which have united their cellular operations and operate throughout the west.

“Sometimes its more profitable to own a property that is generating cash flow than to sell it,” said David Friedman, telecom analyst with Bear, Stearns & Co. in New York. Also, there can be tax implications when selling. However, the sale of a property can be beneficial if the money is re-deployed into other properties, Friedman said.

The Sprint board of directors voted this summer to pursue a tax-free spinoff of its cellular unit. Forms have been filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the complex process is underway.


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