ATLANTA, GEORGIA, Monday, Feb. 23, 1998 - In providing a report on total year-end customer and coverage results for North American operators using Global System for Mobile (GSM) communications, GSM Alliance Chairman Don Warkentin said the growth has been "astounding."
Warkentin said that 15 companies now provide commercial PCS service in 34 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and three Canadian provinces to more than 1.5 million customers. The total number of GSM customers worldwide now stands at 70.2 million.
"Posting record gains in customer growth and geographic coverage, GSM companies in North America continue to showcase a first-to-market advantage, as well as innovation in pricing, service features and wireless data," Warkentin said.
During fourth quarter1997, GSM customer totals in North America grew 75 percent, an increase of 600,000 new subscribers. In the past eight months alone, GSM operator have added more than one million customers in North America. It took the entire U.S. cellular industry more than four years to add as many customers when it first began.
GSM carriers in North America have built nearly 7,500 cell sites in two years (that's three times as many as the entire U.S cellular industry built in its first years), and have created more than 7,500 new jobs.
As 1997 began, there were eight GSM operators providing commercial service in North America: Aerial Communications, APC/Sprint Spectrum, BellSouth Mobility DCS, Microcell Telecommunication, Omnipoint Communications, Pacific Bell Mobile Services, Powertel and Western Wireless.
By year's end, the number of companies providing commercial GSM service in North America nearly doubled. Airadigm Communications, Inc. became the first of the FCC's "entrepreneur" or C-Block license winners to turn up its network, launching GSM service in Appleton in March 1997, and Green Bay, Wisconsin, in April. The Cook Inlet/ Western Wireless venture followed Airadigm with a June launch of its VoiceStream service in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Third Kentucky Cellular Corp., marketed as Wireless 2000 PCS, rolled out service in the Corbin, Williamsburg and London, Kentucky markets in October. During the same month, NPI Wireless became the first to launch 1900 MHz digital PCS in Michigan when it launched service in Traverse City.
In November, PCS ONE, a joint venture between D&E Communications and Omnipoint Corporation, launched service in the Central Pennsylvania area. In January 1998, DIGIPH PCS launched service in Mobile, Alabama, and this month, Southeast Telephone L.P inaugurated commercial service in the Williamson, West Virginia - Pikeville, Kentucky BTA.
Warkentin reports that GSM's active markets now cover nearly 60 percent of the potential population (POPs) of its national footprint in the U.S. In addition, Microcell, the GSM provider in Canada, already covers 40 percent of the Canadian population.
Microcell recently announced the creation of GSM Capital L.P., an international venture-capital fund with committed capital of more than US$137 million. The fund is dedicated to private equity investment in companies developing innovative new products and services related to the GSM standard. A Microcell initiative, GSM Capital leverages the resources of nine GSM operators from Asia, Canada, Europe, the United States, and some 15 institutional investors.
In addition, the Alliance has now signed more than 60 international roaming agreements with other GSM companies around the world. GSM architecture supports full-featured, seamless roaming between GSM systems in North America. This inherent roaming capability allows operators to easily exchange common services, billing records and location information.
Companies affiliated with the GSM Alliance currently serve more than 1.5 million customers and operate networks covering more than 130 million people in the U.S. and Canada. Members of the Alliance include Aerial Communications, BellSouth Mobility DCS, Pacific Bell Mobile Services, Microcell Telecommunications, Omnipoint Communications, Powertel and Western Wireless.
The Alliance works in cooperation with North American GSM equipment manufacturers: Ericsson, Motorola, Nokia, Nortel and Siemens.
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