TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: GTE, Sprint, United, Centel, Contel, Nextel, etc.

GTE, Sprint, United, Centel, Contel, Nextel, etc.

Anthony Bellanga (
Fri, 06 Jan 2006 14:13:40 -0700

PAT -- please suppress my email address in the "from" line, and any
other place it might appear!

Al Gillis wrote:

> TELECOM Digest Editor wrote:

>> The (S)outhern (P)acific (R)ailroad (I)nternal (N)etwork
>> (T)elecommunications Department of that railroad -- or S.P.R.I.N.T.
>> for short -- did a major re-build of their trackside telephone
>> system in the late 1960's. They did such a good job of it, they had
>> a huge anount of left-over capacity and decided to lease it out to
>> other businesses and companies. That was the original Sprint, which
>> a few years later got into residential telecom service as well, and
>> has now -- 2005 -- gone through many changes in ownership and
>> management. About 1998 or so, Sprint bought the United Telephone
>> Company which serves a lot of northern Kansas among other
>> territories. PAT]

> BZZZZZT! Sorry, Pat, it was the other way around!

> United Telephone, based in the Kansas City, KS area (maybe Overland
> Park) bought SPRINT and then assumed the name, much like the recent
> changes at SBC/AT&T.

> United Telephone owned numerous local operating telephone companies
> around the US of A. In my area it was United Telephone of the
> Northwest. There was a United Telephone of Ohio, United Telephone of
> Florida, and others with the "United Telephone of..." name. There
> were still others as well, like Carolina Telephone, which operated in
> North and South Carolina. Possibly the largest city in SPRINT's
> stable in Las Vegas, NV.

Southern Pacific Railways began to offer "common carrier" telecom
services (SPRINT) during the 1970s era, paralleling what MCI had also
begun doing. At first, it was private line services, but over time,
combinations of private line with switched long haul services emerged,
and finally "fully switched" OCC (Other Common Carrier) services.

In the early 1980s, GTE bought out SPRINT from Southern Pacific
Railways. In the early 1980s, their 950-xxxx feature group 'B' dial-up
access number was 950-0777, the '777' for 'SPR', and their initial
post-divestiture feature group 'D' equal-access dial-around code was

Also happening during the early 1980s was that the independent telco
group owner United (which was one of about four or five or six of the
larger ones, the others being GTE, Contel, Centel, and also Alltel,
CenturyTel, PTI, etc) was developing their own 'OCC' long-distance
network called "US Telecom". Their access number was (is) 950-1033,
and their dial-around was 10-333 (now 101-0333).

In 1986, GTE and United decided to "join forces" and merge their OCC
long-distance networks. The new joint-venture would be called "US
Sprint", owned 50/50 by GTE and United. It would take some time for
the networks and billing departments of "US Sprint" to be properly
merged and operating "seamlessly". In the first couple of years of "US
Sprint", there were numerous billing errors! (Not that they didn't
have significant billing errors or broken promises throughout the
1990s as well!).

After a year or two of the "US Sprint" joint-venture of GTE and
United, GTE suddenly announced that they "wanted out" of Sprint. It
was decided that over the next five or so years, that United would
slowly buy out GTE's ownership of "US Sprint". So, every year, if you
read the reports of who owned what, United would have larger shares of
Sprint, and GTE would have less.

By 1992 or so, GTE had completely exited Sprint, with United owning
all of Sprint. Also about the same time, GTE and Continental Telephone
(Contel) merged, with the GTE name surviving. There were long time
Contel service areas sold off, as well as some long-time GTE service
areas sold off too, to comply with antitrust laws. Alltel and Citizens
Tel bought up these one-time GTE and Contel service areas. There were
also a few Alltel areas that were sold to GTE at the same time, sort
of a "swap" of some GTE/Contel and Alltel areas! Also during the
1992/93 time period, United also bought out Central Telephone
(Centel). Some legacy Centel areas included Tallahassee FL, large
areas of Virginia, parts of Illinois (including the one-time
Step-by-Step Chicago suburbs of Park Ridge and Des Plaines, later sold
in 1996 to Illinois Bell/Ameritech now SBC/AT&T), and the Las Vegas NV
Metro area. The combined United (which now owned 100% of Sprint) with
Centel, changed its name to Sprint around 1993.

The Sprint Local Telco areas of southern, central, and also scattered
in parts of northern Florida is mostly all legacy United. Tallahassee
FL and a few other areas of northwestern (panhandle) FL are legacy

Sprint has also become involved in Cellular.

Sprint-Canada was a marketing name of Call-Net (Canada), a CLEC and
Canadian-based OCC (competitive Long Distance carrier). More recently,
Rogers (which at one time was in a venture with the old Unitel, also
once known as AT&T-Canada), has bought out Call-Net in Canada. I think
that the Rogers name will replace the Sprint-Canada and the Call-Net

Earlier in 2005, Sprint bought out Nextel wireless. It's going to take
some time before the Nextel name is completely replaced with the
Sprint name, but Sprint did announce that it was retaining wireless
and long distance. The legacy incumbent local telco operation (once
known as United and Centel) is going to be spun-off to a new entity
altogather but the name of this entity is still TBA.

At the time that Sprint tookover Nextel, the red/white "diamond" logo
(in use since 1986 with the GTE and United joint-venture of US-Sprint)
was abandoned (although it will take time for embedded advertizing
signage, etc. to be completely replaced), the new Sprint-Nextel logo
being black, with black text, on a yellow background (similar to
pre-merger Nextel), the black logo itself now being something that
looks like bird-feathers fuffling or book-pages being rifled.

So, Sprint has had quite a colorful history dating back over 30 years.
And I'm defining Sprint by the OCC long distance aspect of the company
and name. Its one time owner United has a history that does indeed go
back over 100 years, as an independent local telephone company that
seems to have begun in the Kansas area in the 1890s or early 1900s.

And it was around 1992/93 (NOT 1998), that United changed its name to
Sprint, since United now owned all 100% of Sprint, in the transition
completely from GTE ownership over to United ownership.

- anthony bellanga

Post Followup Article Use your browser's quoting feature to quote article into reply
Go to Next message: "Re: Payphone Surcharges (was Unanswered Cellphones)"
Go to Previous message: Monty Solomon: "Yahoo! Go Mobile to Launch with AT&T, Cingular and Nokia;"
Next in thread: Al Gillis: "Re: GTE, Sprint, United, Centel, Contel, Nextel, etc."
May be reply: Al Gillis: "Re: GTE, Sprint, United, Centel, Contel, Nextel, etc."
May be reply: Geoffrey Welsh: "Re: GTE, Sprint, United, Centel, Contel, Nextel, etc."
TELECOM Digest: Home Page