Wireless industry growing to meet customers’ needs

Published 8:56 pm Thursday, June 10, 2010

From the bulky bag phones of yesteryear to the “mini-computers”of today, wireless communication devices continue to change to meetcustomers’ needs, Cellular South’s communications director saidWednesday.

Jim Richmond, corporate communications director for theeighth-largest service provider, recalled the “mind-boggling”changes in wireless devices during his 19 years with the company.Among the props for his speech to the Brookhaven Kiwanis Club werea bag phone circa 1990 and a later portable model minus thebag.

“It had a green button to make the call and a red button to stopand that was about it,” Richmond said of the older models.

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Today’s devices, though, are much smaller and are like”mini-computers,” said Richmond while displaying one of manydifferent models available on the market.

Richmond relayed a number of statistics about wirelesscommunication devices today:

• There are 285 million wireless users in the U.S. and 90percent of the population has cell phones.

• The industry generated $152 billion in revenue in 2009.

• In 1988, the average monthly wireless phone bill was $100 amonth. Today it is $48 a month.

• Every month, there are 135 billion text messages sent.

Richmond went on to say that 20 percent of U.S. households arewireless only, meaning they have no landline telephones in theirhomes. He said Cellular South’s percentage is about 25 percent.

“That’s due to increased coverage, rate plans and accessibilityfor the most part,” Richmond said about the overall wireless-onlypercentage.

Regarding the number of homes with only wireless devices,Richard was asked about the possibility of a telephone book forcellular phone users.

Richmond said there is historical resistance dating back to thedays when incoming calls were charged to the recipient, plus somepeople today still want to have their numbers kept private. He saidthere are as many reasons against as there are for having acellular phone number book.

Among trends, Richmond said the fastest-growing segment of thecommunications market is data, which would include everything buttalking. He said there has been “phenomenal” growth in that area inthe last 18 months, with it accounting for $37 billion a year inrevenue.

“Obviously, that’s where the growth it,” he said.

Richmond also discussed the ever-growing area of applications.He said users like the ability for customization, whether that besports, work-related needs or other personal interests.

“A lot of people will use applications that fit theirlifestyle,” Richmond said.

Also touted were the safety benefits of wireless devices.Richmond said 300,000 calls a day are placed to 911.

“It’s got to be saving some lives because emergency respondersare able to get there much quicker,” he said.

And Cellular South continues to advocate a ban on texting anddriving. Richmond noted some success in that area but indicatedthat more needs to be done.

“We’ll continue that push,” he said.

Now headquartered in Ridgeland, Cellular South is the largestprivately-held provider and has around 1,150 employees. Itmaintains an operations center in Meadville and employsapproximately 130 from Southwest Mississippi.

“The southwest part of the state has been very good to us,” hesaid.

Commenting on the keys to success for wireless serviceproviders, Richmond cites a good network, devices and rateplans.

“People want to be able to use the devices where they want touse them,” he said about network needs and the availability ofservice.