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Time Trippin’: Europe hits saturation; Sprint PCS set for data demand … 13 years ago this week

Editor’s Note: The RCR Wireless News Time Machine is a way to take advantage of our extensive history in covering the wireless space to fire up the DeLorean and take a trip back in time to re-visit some of the more interesting headlines from this week in history. Enjoy the ride!

France Telecom enters German market with E-Plus buy
France Telecom last week proceeded toward its goal of becoming a pan-European provider of seamless mobile, wireline and Internet communications through an agreement to acquire controlling interest in E-Plus, Germany’s third-largest wireless carrier. After the E-Plus acquisition, France Telecom will have about 17 million subscribers on mobile networks in Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Moldova, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Slovakia, according to Moody’s Investors Service Ltd., London. France Telecom reached an agreement Oct. 18 with two German utilities, Veba AG and RWE AG, to buy their combined 60.25-percent stake in E-Plus for about $7.95 billion. … Read More

FCC assigns 75 megahertz for intelligent transportation
The Federal Communications Commission last week allocated 75 megahertz of spectrum for smart highway technologies, such as automated toll booths, monitoring traffic jams, travelers’ alerts, and enabling traffic signals to be altered remotely to aid ambulance drivers. The agency expects to rule on licensing procedures for the new spectrum early next year, said Julius Knapp, deputy director of the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology. Smart highways technologies will employ dedicated short-range wireless links to transfer information between vehicles and roadside systems. The technologies are being developed by private industry with input from the Department of Transportation. … Read More

WAP proponents face interoperability challenges as standard evolves
The Wireless Application Protocol had the biggest coming-out party of its 20-month life span during Telecom ’99 in Geneva, with more than 100 carriers, vendors and content providers displaying WAP and WAP-related products, warts and all. While WAP’s momentum has grown all year, many consider Telecom ’99 the beginning of a shift from the development stage to the deployment stage. “It wasn’t just one company. More than 100 were showing WAP or WAP-related products and that’s what created the buzz,” said Greg Williams, chairman of the WAP Forum and vice president of wireless networks at SBC Communications Inc. “I think if we could have had more WAP handsets to put in people’s hands, it could have been more. The one complaint I heard is that it’s too hard to get devices.” … Read More

Sprint PCS expects data to drive PCS demand
The wireless industry is waiting to see how many customers are attracted to Sprint PCS Group’s wireless Internet services, but they will have to wait at least another quarter. Sprint PCS, which launched nationwide wireless Web service in late September, said it’s too early to give numbers on how many customers are signing up for the service. But Sprint PCS President Andy Sukawaty said Sprint PCS is signing up thousands of customers a week. “Data will be a powerful driver of demand,” said Sukawaty. “Even if customers don’t want Web services today, they want to be with a provider that offers it … We have more than 2 million data-capable phones in our customer base through October.” … Read More

ABC program doesn’t tumble wireless market
In some respects, the Main Event was a non-event. Wireless stocks did not go into free fall. Major dailies did not go wild with follow-up stories on ABC’s “20/20″ broadcast on mobile-phone health concerns last Wednesday evening. Congress did not call for hearings, although Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) briefly quizzed Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Jane Henney on mobile-phone health research at a hearing the morning after the broadcast. Federal regulators, for their part, did not order a recall on mobile phones. The short-lived panic that ensued six years ago, following a Florida man’s claim on “Larry King Live” that his wife’s fatal brain tumor was caused by her mobile phone, did not happen, even though this half-hour program was shown during prime time on network TV. The sky did not fall. … Read More

BellSouth restructures in effort to bundle services
BellSouth Corp. last week announced plans to restructure the company to better position itself to provide bundled services. The move comes just weeks after BellSouth failed in a bid to acquire Sprint Corp., which agreed instead to merge with MCI WorldCom Inc. Jeff Battcher, a spokesman for BellSouth, said the restructuring has been in the works for several months. The goal of the plan is to “flatten” the organization of the company and give customers one point of contact for purchasing a variety of BellSouth services, said Battcher. … Read More

Iusacell, Bell Atlantic discuss further deals in Mexico
Nuevo Grupo Iusacell S.A. de C.V. seems to be making moves to establish a nationwide wireless presence in Mexico. Bell Atlantic Global Wireless Inc. confirmed it is in discussions regarding a combination or alliance that would involve Iusacell, in which Bell Atlantic has a 47-percent stake, and the cellular properties of northern Mexico. Bell Atlantic said the venture may result in a new prominent shareholder in the Iusacell business. The northern A-band cellular operations in Mexico comprise four regional carriers – Baja Celular, Cedetel, Movitel and Norcel – in which Motorola Inc. is the major international investor. … Read More

Shake-up continues in Europe
Mannesmann AG, parent of Germany’s top mobile communications company, confirmed last week it made a bid to buy U.K. mobile carrier Orange plc, which Orange’s largest shareholder accepted. The bid values Orange, the United Kingdom’s third-largest mobile operator, at about $32 billion. Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa, which holds a 44.8-percent stake in Orange, has accepted the offer, according to people familiar with the situation. The offer now must be approved by the company’s remaining shareholders, which include 5-percent owner British Aerospace and private and institutional investors, holding 50.2 percent of Orange. … Read More

PageMart changes direction, name
In an attempt to position paging devices and services as Internet appliances, as opposed to telephone appliances, PageMart Wireless Inc. said it will change its name to WebLink Wireless Inc., effective Dec. 1, and also introduced a new line of products and services called e-pager, available nationwide. “If we were just in the traditional paging business, the PageMart name would be fine,” said John Beletic, the company’s chairman and chief executive officer. “But we have three-fourths of our capital invested in something radically different, and PageMart is a poor descriptor of this new world.” While all one-way numeric pagers and service will continue to be marketed and sold under the PageMart brand, Beletic said all advanced messaging products and services will fall into the e-pager family. … Read More

GSM group expects 100% penetration in some markets this year
Global System for Mobile communications providers met last week in Montreal for the 42nd plenary meeting of the GSM Association to discuss the technology’s evolution and products and services, though by press time the group did not make any specific announcements on the topics. “We will by the end of the year be very close to reaching 250 million subscribers around the world,” Michael Stocks, chairman of the association, told reporters at a press conference early last week. “We will have about 600 million by 2003 and probably three-quarters of a billion by 2005 … Sixty percent of the population use GSM technology. We do expect 100-percent penetration in markets like Italy and Finland by the end of the year.” … Read More

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