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Industry Center - Communications Services
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Wireless Communications Services Industry Profile

The need for mobility, in the workplace as well as in our everyday lives, has driven rapid growth in the wireless communications services industry, which delivers voice and data over mobile telephones, pagers, and handheld computers. More recently, the promise of the mobile Internet has added to imaginative ways that consumers and professionals alike utilize these services, which increasingly are being personalized to appeal to the individual user while fitting on smaller devices.

The switch from analog to digital networks has been responsible for rapid growth in the wireless communications industry. Digitalization permits greater traffic capacity, lower prices, and better sound quality, as well as opening the door to innovative data and Internet services.

Competing digital standards have slowed development of wireless services in the US, however, with various providers employing all three of the world's major wireless standards: Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA), Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA), and the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM). European nations and much of the rest of the world have adopted the GSM standard, making it easier for customers to use their mobile phones in different countries and spurring the development of customized data services.

US market leaders include Cingular Wireless (a joint venture of SBC Communications and BellSouth and the leading wireless carrier in the US after its acquisition of rival AT&T Wireless), Verizon Wireless (a joint venture of Verizon Communications and the Vodafone Group), and Sprint PCS (the wireless unit of Sprint Corporation).

The Internet has kept alive the promise of continued growth. Carriers such as Vodafone, NTT DoCoMo, and Sprint PCS, have rolled out mini-browser services and e-mail access, and competitors have followed suit. As more and more consumers are able to access the Internet through wireless devices, service providers hope to persuade users to shop and entertain themselves using these Web-enabled phones and other devices. Advertisers aim to steer users into the nearest store with marketing messages beamed directly to the consumer.

Pagers, which were once cast aside as mobile voice services became more common and less expensive, have proved to be popular vehicles for wireless e-mail delivery as both messaging devices and networks have been improved.

To meet the demands of the future, operators are laying the groundwork for so-called 3G networks, the third-generation infrastructure that follows first-generation analog and second-generation digital systems. Service providers have paid billions of dollars for 3G licenses in national auctions in Europe. These prices proved inflated following the downturn that has so adversely affected the telecom industry. The huge debts that wireless operators have accumulated buying licenses and developing networks have been coupled with the lack of a so-called "killer application" to drive consumers to the newest technologies.

Though the number of people using wireless communications devices has surpassed 1 billion, mobile phone subscriber growth, which has outstripped expectations for years, has nearly halted, except in underdeveloped nations. Wireless telecom operators have been forced to accept that increasing competitiveness in the industry and declining numbers of subscribers are the reality.

Top Wireless Service Companies Ranked By Sales
1. Vodafone Group PLC (VOD)
2. NTT DoCoMo, Inc. (DCM)
3. Cellco Partnership
4. T-Mobile International AG
5. Orange SA
6. AT&T Wireless Services, Inc. (AWE)
7. China Mobile (Hong Kong) Limited (CHL)
8. Cingular Wireless LLC
9. Telecom Italia Mobile SpA
10. Telefónica Móviles, S.A.
Key People
Stanley T. Sigman - CEO of Cingular Wireless. A long-time wireless industry leader, Sigman helped start SBC Communications wireless business in the mid-1980s, and directed its integration into BellSouth's wireless group to form Cingular in 2001. Long regarded as a wireless industry visionary and champion for wireless safety and technology advances, he serves as chairman emeritus of the board of directors of the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association. In 2004, he was appointed to the President's National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee.
Morgan E. O'Brien - Vice chairman of Nextel Communications. Widely regarded as a pioneer in the wireless industry, Mr. O'Brien cofounded what would become Nextel (Fleet Call) in 1987, and served as chairman of the board through 1996. Prior to co-founding the company, Mr. O'Brien practiced communications law and from 1986 to 1990 was the partner-in-charge of the telecommunications practice at Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue. Mr. O'Brien began his career as a lawyer with the Mobile Services Division of the FCC in 1970 where he assisted in establishing the rules and procedures for all land mobile services. Among his many honors, O'Brien was inducted into the Wireless Hall of Fame.
Sir Christopher Gent - Former CEO of Vodafone, led the company through acquisitions and growth to make it one of the world's leading mobile phone operators. In a career spanning 36 years, Sir Christopher has held senior positions with NatWest, Schroder Computer Services, and ICL. He joined Vodafone Group in August 1985 as managing director of Vodafone Limited and was appointed chief executive in January 1997, helping the company to become one of the largest in Europe and the largest in its industry worldwide. As a result of his leadership at Vodafone and his contributions to the telecommunications industry, he was knighted in June 2001. He retired from Vodafone on July 30, 2003.
Dr. Irwin Jacobs - CEO of wireless equipment maker QUALCOMM. Led the commercial development of the CDMA wireless standard in the face of harsh criticism and doubts that CDMA could ever work on a commercial scale. QUALCOMM-based CDMA is now the world's second-leading digital standard among service providers; all 3G services are to be based on some version of CDMA technology.
Craig O. McCaw - Chairman and CEO of Clearwire, Inc. Craig is the second of four sons of radio-and-TV pioneer John Elroy McCaw, who started Centralia, Washington's first radio station (1937); was one of the first cable TV operators (1952); and was among the first to air rock 'n' roll (New York City's WINS, 1950s). Craig took the lead in managing McCaw Communications, a small cable system the father sold to the four boys. While a student at Stanford, he ran the cable operations from his dormitory even after his father's sudden death in 1969. To settle debts and taxes the family was forced to liquidate all assets except the small Centralia cable operator. After graduation, Craig borrowed against the cable system and began buying other small cable operations. Attracted by the burgeoning cellular phone market in 1981, he acquired several of the first FCC-granted franchises. By 1986, when McCaw acquired the cellular and paging operations of MCI Communications, McCaw Cellular was the market leader. By 1994, when McCaw Cellular was sold to AT&T for $11.5 billion, it was the nation's largest cellular phone operation. McCaw then invested $1.1 billion in the struggling Nextel Communications, revitalizing the company. He also founded XO Communications in 1994, but a downturn in the telecom industry forced the network operator into Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2001. In 2004 McCaw founded broadband wireless venture Clearwire.
Glossaries Wireless Communications Glossary
Associations & Organizations
3G Americas, LLC
CDMA Development Group
Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association
Federal Communications Commission Wireless Telecom Bureau
GSM Association
The Wireless Foundation

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