#TBT: Billing moves online; Cricket phones ‘loved to death’; ‘Portable internet’ to bridge digital divide … this week in 2000

Editor’s Note: RCR Wireless News goes all in for “Throwback Thursdays,” tapping into our archives to resuscitate the top headlines from the past. Fire up the time machine, put on those sepia-tinted shades, set the date for #TBT and enjoy the memories!

Sprint tests 1XEvolution

Lucent Technologies Inc. and Sprint PCS announced they will conduct a joint trial of 1XEvolution technology, a third-generation technology based on High Data Rate technology. The trial will begin over the Sprint PCS network in the first half of 2001 and involves testing and verification of the 2.4-megabit-per-second capability using Lucent’s Flexent wireless network platform. The test initially will take place in the Sprint PCS Technology Integration Center in Lenexa, Kansas. The CDMA Development Group recently submitted the 1XEV specification to global standards group, Third Generation Partnership Project 2. The specification incorporates 1XRTT technology, which offers doubled voice capacity and data speeds of up to 144 kilobits per second to existing Code Division Multiple Access networks and HDR technology developed by Qualcomm Inc. 3GPP is expected to complete standardization of the technology in August. Many CDMA operators plan to deploy 1X technology by next year, while Korean operators SK Telecom and KT Freetel plan commercial deployments in the fourth quarter. 1XEV should become commercially available by the end of 2001. … Read more

Get yer eMinutes online

REDMOND, Wash.-AT&T Wireless Services Inc. said it is offering a prepaid feature called AT&T eMinutes, which allows the company’s prepaid customers to refill account voice minutes online for immediate use. The company said the program is the first to offer national prepaid wireless minutes for sale online in the United States. The service is provided by Qpass, a digital commerce services company, which provided the commerce infrastructure for transaction-processing, customer-registration and customer-care functions via the Internet. … Read more

Altel takes billing online

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.-Alltel Corp. introduced a free online billing system for most of its wireless customers, allowing them to analyze their calling patterns and pay bills with a credit card via a secure Internet connection. “Alltel’s online billing system saves time and money for customers by relieving them of writing checks, buying postage and other charges associated with mailing bills,” said Kevin Beebe, communications group president for Alltel. “More importantly, it gives Alltel’s customers the freedom to analyze their bills at their convenience. This allows us to build closer relationships with our customers by providing them with easy-to-use tools to meet their everyday needs.” … Read more

Billing and customer care intersect with the internet

NEW YORK-The conventional wisdom that communications software and enhanced services were “a one-night stand as an investment opportunity,” has faded away amid a proliferation of new carrier requirements, said Susan Passoni, vice president of Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Securities Corp. Excluding electronic commerce, DLJ projects the worldwide market for telecommunications billing and customer care will reach $8 billion by year-end and grow to $35 billion by the end of 2005. “About 99 percent of a carrier’s interface with a customer is through the monthly bill. Today’s billing systems are (becoming) more complex and are integral to new service initiatives, marketing and pricing strategies for all carriers,” Passoni said. “One of the most exciting things powering the change in the way we communicate is the [meeting] of mobility and the Internet (because) of the ubiquity of wireless and the Internet, location sensitivity and any time, anywhere communications … The Internet is the killer [application] for wireless.” Worldwide, the number of wireless users is projected to increase to about 550 million by the end of this year and to surpass 1 billion by the end of 2003. Wireless data users, who comprised 31 million of the 425 million wireless subscribers at the end of 1999, are expected to exceed the 1 billion-mark by the end of 2005, Passoni said. … Read more

Cricket phones get ‘loved to death’

One thing Cricket Communications Inc. did not plan on when it decided to offer a wireless service that competes with landline telephony was the fact that handsets break faster. In the two markets where Cricket has launched service, customers are using an average of 1,000 minutes per month, Leap Wireless International Inc., Cricket’s parent company, said in its recent quarterly conference call. As a result, phones break more and customers don’t get them fixed. Cricket is considering establishing repair facilities and an insurance program to keep customers from churning off the network. “The phones are just being used all the time,” said Harvey White, chairman and chief executive officer of Leap. “Over 60 percent of our customers use their phone as their primary phone. They’re not just breaking down, but they are being dropped, getting beer spilled on them more often or whatever. It’s a phenomena that in this segment of the market we’re going to have to deal with. We are talking to our vendors about the phone and phone life. I’m sure wireless phones were never designed for this kind of usage.” Cricket offers customers unlimited local calling for an upfront payment of about $30 per month, but the company has purposely limited the coverage area to the metropolitan area, and customers can’t roam. Cricket has launched just two markets, Chattanooga and Nashville, Tenn. … Read more

ETSI GSM standards work moves to 3GPP

SOPHIA ANTIPOLIS, France-The European Telecommunications Standards Institute’s Technical Committee Special Mobile Group, which has been responsible for setting Global System for Mobile communications standards, announced it will close. ETSI said most of the ongoing work performed by SMG will be transferred to the Third-Generation Partnership Project, with the necessary structural changes within 3GPP expected to be finalized by July. “The new arrangement concentrates all GSM and Universal Mobile Telecommunications System specifications work into one body, which is open on equal terms to interested companies worldwide,” said Friedhelm Hillebrand, chairman of SMG. … Read more

‘Portable internet’ is coming

WASHINGTON-A group of wireless and telecommunications executives are planning to roll out a new service they hope will lead to residential wireless broadband service with what could be megabit data rates. The market for Burst Wireless Inc. are those customers that cannot get access to either digital subscriber lines or cable modems. “This is for the people that get forgotten. We are going to be able to bridge the digital divide in a cost-effective way,” said George Tronsrue, Burst’s chairman and chief executive officer. The business model calls for the technology to be “plug-n-play.” One vision is that it will be about the size of a mobile-phone handset and velcro to the back of a laptop. The technology will be portable but not mobile, said Richard Compton, Burst’s chief technology officer, formerly of Lucent Technologies Inc. This differs from Qualcomm Inc.’s High Data Rate technology. HDR would allow the user to obtain high-speed data while as a passenger in a car or train. While Compton said Burst is looking at HDR, “we would see stripping away the mobility to get a broader pipe.” Burst’s business plan piggy-backs on the wireless infrastructure already in place and other services will be outsourced, Tronsrue said. “We are going to be able to outsource a lot of things that five years ago we would have had to do in-house,” he said. … Read more

Check out the RCR Wireless News Archives for more stories from the past.

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