NEW YORK-Look who’s talking! After deflecting outside speculation for months, PCS PrimeCo L.P. partners have hinted recently that their TalkAlong phone-in-a-box product is to become their nationwide marketing vehicle.
PCS PrimeCo is a venture jointly owned by Bell Atlantic Corp., Nynex Corp., U S West Inc. and AirTouch Communications Inc. It spent $1.1 billion in last year’s FCC auction for licenses for digital personal communications services. The venture won a patchwork of PCS licenses to fill in the areas where its cellular company partners did not already have licenses, thereby gaining virtually nationwide coverage.
In a recent prepared statement, Lee Cox said that AirTouch, U S West, Bell Atlantic Nynex Mobile and PCS PrimeCo expect to announce in early April a national branding strategy centered on the TalkAlong product. Cox is chairman and chief executive officer of AirTouch Cellular and vice chairman of AirTouch Communications. U S West Cellular will assume the AirTouch Cellular company brand name in May, in advance of their merger, which is anticipated for late this year.
U S West Cellular developed TalkAlong, which so far has sold more than 200,000 cellular units nationwide through mass market retailers.
The TalkAlong kit contains a Nokia analog phone, a battery with 95 minutes of talk time, a battery charger and an instruction booklet. It is bought off the shelf and paid for with a credit card. TalkAlong is activated when the purchaser calls an 800 number listed in the kit. Monthly charges are billed to a credit card and an itemized statement from the cellular operator is sent to the customer.
Customers can cancel at any time, but the phone must be returned if service has been active for less than a year.
“Rather than all of the different companies going with one company’s name, as with Cellular One, we’re focusing on the (TalkAlong) product name,” said Wendy Carver-Herbert, media relations manager for U S West.
She concurred with an analogy provided by Jim Gerace, executive director of public relations for Bell Atlantic Nynex Mobile. “Our intent is to have a common name in all markets,” he said. “For example, the Visa brand name is known nationwide, but the (credit cards) are sold by different banks.”