November 26, 1996 11:00 AM ET
CDMA personal communications service
makes gains

By Mark Moore

  For many mobile professionals, the promise of PCS is moving closer to reality as carriers continue to expand the footprint of their digital cellular networks across the United States.

PrimeCo Personal Communications L.P. recently launched its personal communications service in 16 major cities. The service will reach a potential 32 million customers. The Westlake, Texas, company, which was formed by an alliance of AirTouch Communications, Bell Atlantic Corp., Nynex Corp. and US West Media Group, has deployed its network in less than a year and a half after acquiring its PCS licenses from the Federal Communications Commission during its 1994 auctions, according to PrimeCo officials.

PrimeCo's PCS network, which is based on the CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) digital cellular standard, is commercially available now in Norfolk and Richmond, Va.; Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, and Tampa, Fla.; Chicago; Milwaukee; New Orleans; Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio, Texas; and Honolulu. The wireless provider plans to launch service in Austin, Texas, next week, officials said.

Overall, PrimeCo's PCS licenses cover 19 states and 58 million potential customers in 11 major trading areas.

PrimeCo plans to offer next year dual-mode handsets that enable users to operate and roam on both analog and digital cellular networks, said officials.

PCS networks based on CDMA provide better call clarity and security than other digital cellular standards, such as Time Division Multiple Access. PCS networks typically provide caller ID, call waiting and voice mail capabilities, as well as the ability for users to send and receive short text messages and pages.

For some users, enhanced call clarity and security are critical to mobile workforces.

"With a lot of our sales people, the big thing is call clarity when they are out on the road. From a headquarters standpoint, it's security," said Tracy Lussier, vice president of development for Mugar Enterprises Inc. in Boston. "If PrimeCo's service is providing [those two things], they are hitting what corporate America needs."

The PrimeCo PCS network includes a number of other enhancements aimed at easing account management and billing. For instance, subscribers of the PrimeCo service can determine their account balance by pressing a button on their cellular phone. In addition, an automatic alert advises customers when they are approaching a pre-set spending limit.

PrimeCo PCS network users will not be charged for the first minute of incoming calls, thus eliminating the need for customers to pay for wrong numbers, said officials.

PrimeCo joins PCS providers Sprint PCS and GTE Corp. in CDMA deployment. Sprint PCS plans to offer its CDMA-based digital cellular service in 65 cities by the end of June, with the potential of reaching nearly 190 million U.S. customers. GTE will roll out PCS service in San Jose, Calif., in December and in most of its other markets over the next 15 months.

PrimeCo is at

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