After discontinuing a five-year relationship with AT&T Corp., HighwayMaster Corp. has formed a new alliance with GTE Corp. and continues to work with IEX Corp. to revamp its network platform.
Dallas-based HighwayMaster’s mobile communications and fleet information management system operates nationwide using existing cellular infrastructure and satellite global positioning system technology for vehicle location. The system allows trucking companies to keep in two-way contact with their drivers, wherever they are and at any time.
AT&T and HighwayMaster had a five-year contract, which expires this June, to provide mobile services for long-haul trucking on a mutually exclusive basis, said HighwayMaster. For various reasons, “we both wanted out of the deal,” remarked Gordon Quick, HighwayMaster’s chief operating officer.
A key reason HighwayMaster sought to abandon the agreement was to gain control of the complex, which functions as the switching and data storage center. AT&T agreed to cancel the contract, but HighwayMaster is proceeding with a lawsuit to protect its ideas and technology.
“AT&T intonated they want to use that [mutually operated] complex with other people,” charged Quick.
Together with IEX, HighwayMaster is designing its own complex, whereby IEX will provide call control, interactive voice and switching matrix functions and other elements of an enhanced services platform. HighwayMaster is writing its proprietary software to fit with IEX’s off-the-shelf components, said Quick. HighwayMaster’s software interfaces with many computers, from PCs to mainframes, as well as with other common software packages.
AT&T is obligated to continue servicing existing customers, which could be a period up to three years, said HighwayMaster.
HighwayMaster last week secured a three-year contract for GTE Mobilnet Inc. to provide cellular coverage for about 20 percent of HighwayMaster’s network, while GTE Telecommunications Services Inc. plans to provide technical and administrative support and clearinghouse and settlement services for GTE Mobilnet and other cellular carriers servicing HighwayMaster.
Trucks using HighwayMaster’s network have microprocessors that allow instant call delivery and automatic verification when the truck passes from one coverage area to another. Airtime fees are standard, with no roaming fees. Personal calls and business calls can be billed separately and data messages can be stored. Phone calls received in the truck are billed to the caller.
While HighwayMaster employs existing cellular infrastructure, features like Calling Party Pays and standard airtime fees are proprietary adaptations.
HighwayMaster’s system is scalable to fleet size. A trucking company pays $2,000 per truck to be equipped with a phone capable of voice-activated commands, a mounted visual text display, hands-free microphone, speaker, cellular antenna and GPS receiver. Monthly access costs about $40 per truck plus airtime, 48 cents per minute for data and 53 cents per minute for voice.
The eight-year-old company founded by Bill Kennedy Jr. was incorporated as HighwayMaster in 1992. HighwayMaster services between 700 and 800 companies with about 15,000 mobile units active and 8,000 on back order.