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While one of the current cell phone carriers can trace their roots all the way back to 1885, this article is based on the era starting when Dr. The merger brought together carriers from the west coast, AirTouch, east coast, Bell Atlantic, and the mid west, GTE and created the largest singular (no, not Cingular…I will talk about them later), wireless carrier in the US. I went to work for Verizon Wireless about 6 months after the merger and I can tell you it was a bit of a mess.
On the west coast, Southern Pacific Communications Company or SPC, a division of the Southern Pacific Railroad, had a used a microwave network for internal communications. The name officially changed from Sprint PCS to Sprint Nextel with the 2004 merger of the two companies.
World’s first Public Data Network, first nationwide 100% digital fiber-optic network, first carrier to offer commercial Internet access, first major company to provide local, long distance and wireless services, first nationwide 100-percent digital PCS wireless network, first wireless carrier to complete a nationwide Third Generation (3G) 1X network upgrade, first major U.S.
While Nextel is now a part of Sprint, I think it is important to tell part the story separately. First company to provide unlimited calling plans to a large customer base, first company to implement a nationwide push-to-talk system, one of the first providers to offer a national digital cellular coverage footprint, first to integrate global positioning system features into their phones and to complete their 2G network upgrade, first to combine digital cellular, two-way radio and text-numeric paging in one phone, first to introduce a wireless JavaTM phone in North America, first carrier to provide access to live streaming video.
First to deliver the BlackBerry® wireless handheld e-mail solution with integrated phone, first wireless carrier to introduce video messaging services in the United States-and customers start sending and recording full-motion, full-color, full-sound messages from their wireless phone.
I hope you had as much fun learning about these companies as I did reading about, researching and writing about them. If you happen to miss any quotes, just click on "quotes and saying" under "categories" below to see all past posts. Have you ever seen someone or something that either completely cracks you up or makes you crackers. If you happen to miss any observations, just click on "observations" under "categories" below to see all past posts. 2014 is drawing to a conclusion, and 2015 is a week away; how are the US carriers lining up against one another for the coming twelve months? For 2015 and something that we are all interested in is how the carriers are working on their networks, because most of us are happy to pay good money for a service if that service delivers what we are paying for! Martin Cooper made his first call on a Motorola portable cell phone that he created in 1973. Since the merger and creation of Verizon Wireless, there has been a relentless battle between AT&T and Verizon Wireless to be the top dog in total customer activations.
At the time there were over 25 different billing systems and over 100 different regional cell phone plans. Since the company already had the “rights of way” for a network, it laid out cables for private line use.


Of the two main US carriers, AT&T and Verizon reached their 2014 coverage targets but have and will continue spending money on improving their coverage and, critically, capacity.
You will read about the evolution of the four major cell phone carriers of today, Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile. If you lived in New York and wanted to use you phone in California, you had to pay huge roaming fees even though technically you were using the same network. AT&T (Atlantic Telephone and Telegraph), as a company, dates back to 1885 when it was created by its parent company, Bell Telephone (yes, Alexander Graham Bell). McCaw Cellular, at the time, was the largest cellular provider in the US with 2 million customers.
In fact, those two powerhouses, Brown Telephone and AT&T, went toe-to-toe back then in Kansas for many years.
Once the FCC approved the use of voice over these lines in 1978, Southern Pacific needed a new name to differentiate the new company. Basically, this is a two-way radio system that was used for dispatching taxi cab fleets (hence the name FleetCall). In 2001, German telecommunications giant, Deutsche Telekom the parent company of the largest German mobile phone operator T-Mobile, was looking for a way to get into the US market just like its main rival in Europe Vodafone had done the year before. I also encourage you to send any quotes and sayings near and dear to your heart and I will be happy to post them here (after a careful screening process for those of you with overactive imaginations) and give you credit with your first name and last initial. T-Mobile USA and Sprint are still working on catching up with AT&T and Verizon in order to reach the same LTE coverage and capacity.
We’ve seen positive noises and changes in the business and the new management are serious about playing to win the US market. In 1899, AT&T actually attained all the assets of the Bell Company and became the parent company (kind of like when we get old and go back to be burdens on our children). In 2000, AT&T Wireless became a publicly traded company and in 2001 it became a separate company. An internal company contest yielded the name Sprint (Southern Pacific Railroad Intelligent Network of Telecommunications) Yep, that’s what “Sprint” stands for. FleetCall starting buying up as many of the SMR licenses it could in anticipation of building out a new communications system for private use.
We’ve seen early termination credits applied to bills, tablet data for life, double data promotions and no cash down equipment plans. There’s another complication here in that we are expecting the carriers to continue pushing and improving their VoLTE coverage. Of course, the other carriers are not going to let Sprint take the fight to them but will continue to keep up the pressure.


I have attached the reference links I used for each company if you want to see the entire stories. In 1993, the company name was changed to Nextel since FleetCall referenced the old style technology. The carriers are in the order of the total number of subscribers (or customers or connects…oh let’s not get into that again) as of the end of 2010. The result was the formation of AT&T and seven other companies under the “Bell” name or Baby Bells.
It’s beneficial to the carriers because LTE networks are far higher capacity than 3G and 2G networks, so fewer masts are needed to carry voice calls.
To keep this article from being 100 pages I am, for the most part, telling you the US stories of these companies. Interestingly, when Verizon bought out Alltel, as part of the buyout, Verizon had to sell 105 overlapping local wireless properties. The two bidders were Cingular and Vodafone (yes, the same Vodafone who owned 45% of Verizon Wireless). In 1983 United Telecom offered cell phone service in the Midwest and south under the name Telespectrum. In 1986 US Sprint sold Telespectrum off to Centel taking Sprint all but out of the wireless business. Just in case you are wondering, if Vodafone would have won the bid they would have had to sell their 45% share to Verizon Communications. Working with Motorola, Nextel built out the iDen network and became a major nationwide carrier. To this day, Verizon Communications has been trying to convince Vodafone to sell them the rest of Verizon Wireless. Just prior to the reacquisition Sprint sold off the remaining small analog wireless network they had to a little company called Alltel (Yep, Verizon’s Alltel), to be able to start a new all digital network called PCS. Obviously, Vodafone did not win the bid and Cingular (who was owned by two Baby Bells, Bell South and SBC), took over.
The AT&T Wireless name was wiped out forever, forever, forever (well not really, but it does add dramatic effect).



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