VIEWPOINT

The telecom reform bill has passed Congress and should soon be signed by President Clinton. The country is embarking upon a brave new world of increased competition-at least in the short term.

The ramifications to the wireless industry cannot be understated. The antenna siting provision-language that states rules regarding radio frequency emissions are a federal matter-will be called upon by hundreds if not thousands of city planners and company engineers in the next few years as PCS networks are built.

A phrase that allows wireless companies to bundle their equipment and services is equally important.

Handsets are a commodity, just ask the powers-that-be at Fujitsu Network Transmissions Systems, who have decided to get out of the analog cellular sales business in the United States. They more or less said there is little profit in handsets these days.

Wireless service prices continue to come down. SNET just announced a $25-a-month package that allows consumers to keep the handset without penalty if they cut off service after a year-which just underscores how much of a commodity handsets have become. (Are they throwing in the extra battery for free yet?)

While those parts of the telecom reform legislation work inside the wireless industry, the future of the industry will depend on how wireless companies integrate within the new competitive market of local, long-distance and cable TV providers.

A friend of mine who is moving to a new house phoned Tele-Communications Inc. to disconnect cable TV service at her old place and reconnect it at her new location. TCI offered her a package where Sprint Corp. would pay $5 a month toward her cable bill for a year if she switched her long-distance carrier to Sprint. It sounded like a good deal and she took it.

While it may take Sprint TV awhile to build out its PCS network, it hasn’t taken the individual companies long at all to figure out how to market each other’s services.

Cellular One is not only offering its brand name to PCS companies, it also is willing to let local and long-distance carriers use it.

You can bet wireless will play an integral role in how telecom and cable companies market their services because wireless is what the people want. I suspect the darlings of the wireless industry will be courted heavily to become part of a larger package of service offerings-that is, by those telecom businesses still missing a wireless link.

Wireless carriers are in the right place at the right time.

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