On 8/6/2006 1:36 AM, Steve Sobol wrote:
> Anthony Bellanga wrote:
>> Over the years, various miscellaneous entities (I assume Cellular One)
>> were taken over by SBC Mobility, or BellSouth Mobility, or post-2000
>> by Cingular.
> I'm not sure when SBC acquired the CellularONE brand, but they owned
> it until they sold it as part of the creation of Cingular. The brand
> went to Western Wireless.
The "Cellular One" brand was created and initially owned by the
Washington Baltimore Cellular Telephone Company, which was the first
fully-licensed and operational cellular system in the US. One of its
partners, American Radio Telephone Service, had operated the
"developmental" system in the Washington-Baltimore markets and
contributed its existing network to the partnership. One of the other
major partners was a subsidiary of the Washington Post.
The Cellular One brand was developed in the early years of cellular,
probably the mid-1980s, as a way for the A block cellular licensees to
establish a common identity, which was believed to be critical for
roaming; the B block carriers, at the outset were all affilated with the
local telephone company, and the A block carriers wanted ti be able to
have a counter to the the "One Bell System" identity that persisted in
the minds of the public even though Ma Bell had been broken up.
WBCTC sold its service exclusively under the Cellular One name, as did
many other A carriers that licensed the name. By the early 1990s, SBC
(to use its current name) bought out the Washington Post, and then ARTS,
and eventually all of the other partners in WBCTC, but it continued to
use the Cellular One name in the Washington-Baltimore markets and in
other markets where it had bought an A block license. SBC thus became
the sole owner of the trade name used by A block cellular carriers that
competed with the B block systems associated with local telephone
companies, including the in-region systems of the Bell operating
companies such as SBC.
Meanwhile, McCaw was buying up one after another A block license
across the country, eventually reaching the point where McCaw's A
block licenses covered more ground than anyone else's -- including in
SBC's own telco states, where it operated the competing B block
Given the relatively primitive intelligence in the analog phones
available at the time, this meant that SBC's A block Cellular One
customers, when roaming in SBC's own home territory, used Cellular One
service provided by McCaw instead of SBC's B block service. In other
words, the customers had a relationship with Cellular One -- the
anti-Bell cellco -- instead of with SBC, which was a Bell company and
the owner of the Cellular One name.
This was not good from a SBC marketing viewpoint -- especially since
the Cellular One name was being used more by SBC's competitor than by
SBC itself, which was seen as by the consumer as the competitor to
Cellular One. Moreover, it raised antitrust questions as well, since
any restrictions SBC placed on the use of the Cellular One name could
ultimately benefit its own competing B bloc systems.
During this time, the early 1990s, digital service was being
introduced by some carriers, and the FCC was setting the rules for the
PCS auctions that started in 1995. And, AT&T bought McCaw, beating
out a competing bid from BellSouth. Initially, the AT&T/McCaw
networks continued to use the Cellular One name. This meant that AT&T
was using SBC's trademark to compete with SBC in its own territory.
AT&T was the true anti-Bell, and it was loath to use a trademark owned
by the competitor it wanted to beat. The imminent introduction of
PCS gave AT&T the opportunity it needed to jump the Cellular One ship.
In the mid-1990s, AT&T Wireless started doing business under its own
new name and very quickly phased out its use of Cellular One, using
its introduction of TDMA digital service as the opportunity to call
its service AT&T Wireless Digital PCS, even though it wasn't in the
The result of AT&T's defection from the Cellular One brand was that
Cellular One was no longer a near-universal A block logo. SBC owned
the brand name used by its own A Band licensees and a bunch of
lesser-ranked carriers not in the big markets where AT&T held the A
Next, the FCC licensed PCS operators. The Cellular One brand was
irrelevant to these. PCS service was offered either under a brand
name of the company holding the licenses or its partner, or else it
was offered under another company's name pursuant to a brand
SBC, AT&T, and the other major carriers now pursued promotion of their
own brands in PCS. Cellular markets where they still used the
Cellular One name were an anomaly for the majors. Carriers were
striving for the elusive "national footprint." And SBC was still
stuck with Cellular One in some markets, especially those where SBC
was not a known brand name.
Evenually, SBC and BellSouth decicded to merge their wireless mobile
operations in a single company, ultimately known as Cingular, and to
use a unified brand name. During the process of the merger (I don't
know whether it was shortly before, at the same time as, or shortly
after the merger) SBC sold its rights to the Cellular One name.
Given the defection of AT&T Wireless from the brand and the
consolidation that had taken place in the wireless industry, the brand
was principally being used in smaller markets and rural areas.
Western Wireless -- a largely rural carrier covering mostly western
states -- was one of the principal users of the name and bought the
rights. (Ironically, the controlling stockholder and CEO of Western
Wireless was John Stanton, who had been responsible for SBC competitor
McCaw's early successes.)
Finally, Western wireless was acquired by Alltel in early 2005, giving
Alltel -- then a telephone company -- the rights to the nonwireline
name. Later, Alltel spun off its wireline assets and became a pure
Michael D. Sullivan
Bethesda, MD (USA)
(To reply, change example.invalid to com in the address.)
[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: My thanks to Attorney Sullivan for this
precise and mostly accurate history of the 'Cellular One' brand name.
The only thing I question is when were 'middle eighties' regards cellular
phone service? I know that Ameritech was one of the _early_ cellular
companies in Chicago (which was itself about the first market place
for cellular if I recall correctly) and at the time Ameritech first
went into business, 'Cellular One' was there also.
Its strange how at my old age I remember the most insignificant
things: the first instance of an overlapping prefix (219-659 was/is
Whiting, Indiana; 312-659 was vacant, not in use at all as used to be
the custom; it used to be in the very old days, Bell did not assign
the 'same' prefix in immediatly adjacent area codes, across state line
boundaries such as Chicago, and northwest Indiana; therefore prefixes
such as 659 Whiting, 931-932-933 and 844 Hammond, 397-398 East
Chicago, IN, were 'protected' to enable seven digit dialing across the
metro area regardless of state boundary lines, etc, so those in
particular were NEVER assigned in Chicago itself until that rule was
abolished and strict a/c + seven digits became a forced requirement).
Anyway, about the time that Ameritech started cellular, all of a
sudden there was 312-659 in one of the northwest suburbs;
312-659-0000 was the office number for Cellular One out of Rolling
Meadows (?), Illinois. So to get more specific I think 'early
eighties' in this context probably was 1981-82.