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A LOOK BACK AT 1996

As 1996 drew to a close, we took a look back at some of the most impacting and industry- defining stories of the year. Here are the RCR editorial department’s picks for the Top 20 stories of 1996.

1. Jan. 29

Omnipoint nets $112M in IPO

NEW YORK-Wall Street gave Omnipoint Corp. a resounding welcome Friday, buying 7 million shares of an initial public offering of common stock that opened the trading day on Nasdaq at $16 per share. Near close, the stock was trading at $20 per share. Omnipoint, which raised $112 million in its IPO, is believed to be the first pure play in personal communications service to tap the public capital markets.

2. Feb. 5

Congress passes telecom reform bill

WASHINGTON-Congress passed landmark telecommunications reform legislation late last week, paving the way for the wireless lane of the information superhighway and setting the stage for a fierce debate on a national spectrum policy bill later this year.

3. Feb. 12

AT&T cuts systems business

As part of AT&T Corp.’s plan to spin off its systems and technology business, newly named Lucent Technologies Inc. filed last week for an initial public stock offering, aiming to sell between 15 percent and 20 percent of the company.

4. March 11

C-block spectrum speculation high

WASHINGTON-The number of bidders participating in the C-block broadband personal communications services auction that are flying by the seats of their pants is staggering. The thought of committing millions of dollars to build a network that is expected to directly compete with numerous established wireline and wireless carriers has given even some of the most seasoned players pause.

5. April 1

Congress wants paging freeze lifted

WASHINGTON-Congress late last week was expected to introduce legislation to force the Federal Communications Commission to lift the two-month-old paging applications freeze, a source told RCR.

6. April 8

SBC, PacTel enter Baby Bell merger

NEW YORK-With a push from the new federal telecommunications deregulation law, SBC Communications Inc. and Pacific Telesis Group April 1 announced the first merger ever between two Baby Bells. In this friendly takeover, SBC Communications Inc., based in San Antonio, Texas, has agreed to acquire Pacific Telesis Group, headquartered in San Francisco, for approximately $17 million.

7. April 22

Authentication stops phone fraud

The Telecommunications Industry Association wrote the standard for authentication technology five years ago and in March 1995, Tom Berson, a noted cryptologist and president of Anagram Laboratories, completed a study that determined “in an authentications environment, cloning fraud as we know it today will be eliminated.” So why aren’t carriers using the technology?

8. April 22

Big spenders win, Nextel gets 177

WASHINGTON-After reaching an exhausting seven rounds per day, the 900 MHz specialized mobile radio auctions finally ended last week, with the predicted big spenders-Paging Network of America, Geotek Communications Inc., FCI 900 Inc., Motorola SMR Inc. and Fleet Talk Inc.-leading the pack. Of the 128 bidders that qualified for the event, 60 small business players survived 168 rounds to win 26 percent of the licenses.

Nextel Communications Inc. said the 177 licenses it won at auction are a “relatively small thing” considering the enormous holding it has already.

9. May 6

True goals of WTR are questioned

WASHINGTON-Wireless Technology Research, L.L.P., the entity created with funding from the wireless telecommunications industry three years ago after a highly publicized lawsuit claimed pocket phones cause brain cancer, is losing the support of some manufacturers and members of the scientific community amid charges that the five-year, $25 million program is being mismanaged and driven as much by public relations as by science.

10. May 6

Standing by CDMA

WASHINGTON-Depending on who is doing the talking, Code Division Multiple Access technology either is venerated of vilified. While several major A-, B-and C-block personal communications services operators have committed to the nascent technology, others are wondering if CDMA is worth the wait. RCR probed those entities that have committed to CDMA and the reasons behind their decisions.

11. May 6

Winners celebrate as bidding closes

WASHINGTON-“This is the most exciting day of my life,” exclaimed Allen Salmasi, chairman and chief executive officer of NextWave Personal Communications Inc., which by all unofficial accounts was the winner of 56 30 megahertz C-block broadband personal communications services markets.

12. May 20

LA CDMA turned on with limits

“This is not a race,” said AirTouch Communications Inc. about its controlled rollout of digital cellular service in northern Los Angeles.

“It’s about getting the right customers transitioned,” explains AirTouch spokeswoman Amy Damianakes.

The “right” customers, to the California-based cellular operator, are the heavy phone users that rack up a great deal of airtime. They are the first ones AirTouch wants to move off its busy analog network and onto the new Code Division Multiple Access network. The Los Angeles network rollout follows a similar rollout by Bell Atlantic Nynex Mobile in New Jersey.

13. May 27

QuestCom defaults on down payment

WASHINGTON-C-block personal communications services auction winner BDPCS Inc. has several legal channels to open before it is forced to give up the 17 markets it won at auction because it could not meet a $37 million down-payment requirement.

The Federal Communications Commission rejected QuestCom Inc. subsidiary BDPCS’s emergency waiver request May 17.

14. Aug. 5

Interconnect fees to drop drastically

WASHINGTON-The Federal Communications Commission’s adoption last week of a sweeping local-competition docket at best opens the door for some wireless carriers to become true head-to-head competitors with local exchange carriers and at least will help lower prices wireless carriers and subscribers pay for service.

15. Sept. 2

Long distance looks for allies

MCI Communications Corp. said its recent deal with NextWave Telecom Inc. isn’t just another resale agreement.

“This will involve interconnection, and there is no reseller in the U.S. with interconnection,” said Whitey Bluestein, MCI vice president of wireless strategy and development.

MCI signed a resale agreement with NextWave Aug. 26 to buy at least 10 billion minutes of wireless time in the next 10 years.

16. Oct. 7

Nextel pursues Pittencrieff buy

Pittencrieff Communications Inc. is the latest, largest and perhaps last significant addition to Nextel Communications Inc.’s corral of specialized mobile radio acquisitions. Nextel announced late last week plans to buy Pittencrieff in a transaction valued at $159 million.

17. Oct. 21

States win round 1 of interconnection

WASHINGTON-Any euphoria felt by wireless carriers following the recent adoption of new interconnection and local competition rules by the Federal Communications Commission should have melted away by now as the commission faces a long, uphill battle in federal court to defend the proxy-pricing aspects of the order.

18. Oct. 28

Digital shootout starts in San Diego

When Pacific Bell Mobile Service launches commercial GSM-based personal communications services this Friday in San Diego, it will do so alongside a quiet competitor. AirTouch Communications Inc. said it will launch its Code Division Multiple Access cellular network on the same day in the same market, offering the service to new and exis
ting customers.

19. Nov. 11

BT buy gives MCI wireless weapons

WASHINGTON-The proposed merger of MCI Communications Corp. and British Telecommunications plc promises to bring plenty of cash and plenty of new services to the global
telecommunications arena, but wireless subscribers to MCI’s paging and cellular operations here won’t notice much of a change for quite some time.

20. Nov. 11

Omnipoint propels PCS to Big Apple

NEW YORK-As Omnipoint Communications Inc. sprints toward the Nov. 14 commercial launch of its personal communications service in the New York City metropolitan area, two hurdles still remain for the operator: Nynex Corp. and NIMBY.

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