In between the land of resellers and the land of licensed wireless providers lies a place where MCI Telecommunications Corp. lives all by itself.

The company prefers not to be called a reseller and was reluctant to be included on RCR’s Top 20 Cellular Resellers’ list. After it purchased the nation’s largest reseller, Nationwide Cellular Service, in 1995, it dropped off the membership list of the National Wireless Resellers Association. It considers itself more along the lines of a carrier even though it is not licensed for any spectrum.

Resellers are in essence only re-billers, said Paul Adams, spokesman for MCI. “They don’t add any value, and they don’t add any other services.”

Since when was that a definition of a reseller? A reselling company purchases minutes of airtime from a carrier to provide service to customers. MCI purchases minutes of airtime and provides service to customers.

However, the difference lies with how MCI connects to carriers’ networks. It connects its switch directly to a carrier’s mobile switching center, something few or no resellers have done, the company claims. Through interconnection, MCI maintains its own customer database, is able to charge its own airtime rates, processes each call through its own intelligent network, provides combined billing of services and owns its own phone numbers.

“The access provider sees MCI as the carrier” when it hands off the call, said Adams. “We’re plugged in, providing the last mile of transmission.” A traditional reseller doesn’t have that much control.

MCI certainly has become a leader in the industry. Other wireless providers, resellers and carriers, are months, even years, away from what MCI is doing. It has successfully integrated services such as cellular, paging, long distance and Internet access into one neat package that is seamless to the consumer.

But any way you cut it, the company still purchases airtime from carriers and sells it. That is the definition of a reseller. The definition should not be based on how a company markets its service differently or how it connects to a carrier’s network. If that were the case, we would have to make up Top 20 categories for every company that claims to do something different from the competition.

Would readers even be interested in Top 20 lists based on marketing strategies and perceptions instead of facts?

I don’t think so.


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