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Anaheim Hosts Mobile Phone-Paging 'Olympics'.

The nation's non-telco providers of mobile radiotelephone and paging services staged an "Olympian event" of their own in Anaheim: Telocator Network of America's 36th annual convention and exposition, which used the Anaheim Convention Center for sessions and the adjacent Marriott Hotel for exhibits.

Telocator President Jim Smith, who heads Smith Communications Systems and Central Alarm Systems in Dalls/Fort Worth, noted that Southern California was "a fitting place" to hold this year's convention, considering that it's the area most analysts predict will be the largest and possibly most-lucrative cellular telephone market in the world.

According to Smith, "Our industry is growing fast; by 1990, radio common carrier operations will support more than 10 million paging subscribers and nearly two million cellular and mobile telephone users. This growth presents challenges and also creates new opportunities."

The radio common carrier industry has had its share of turmoil in the recent sweeping changes on the regulatory front and in the waves of new technological developments.

Early this year, the FCC rewrote Part 22 of its rules in an attempt to simplify the requirements imposed no RCCs. By the first of next year, the commission is deregulating provision of conventional mobile telephones and those already installed in customer autos. Then in 1986, carriers will not have to submit channel-loading information to the FCC on existing systems when seeking new channels.

Deregulation has also brought new competition, not only among RCCs but also broadcasters who now can provide subcarrier paging services.

Since cellular service got on the road commercially in October 1983, installations have proceeded in the top 30 markets, with virtually all to be on line by the end of the year. Lotteries for the second and third blocks of 30 cities were held in October, with markets above 90 just now going through the processing stage.

Telocator's convention and exposition was designed to give RCCs every opportunity to cope with those challenges and reap the benefits. On the hardware and service side, more than 100 manufacturers and suppliers filled three halls of the Marriott, while more than 20 sessions were spread over three days in the adjoining Anaheim Convention Center, covering a broad spectrum of topics, with emphasis on cellular radio.

The general sessions began with a look at cellular lotteries--how to prepare for them and how to live with them. Panelists included moderator Gerald McGowan (Lukas, O'Brien & Raiser), Brian Kirkpatrick (Ernst & Whinney), Robert Moe (Marine Midland Bank) and FCC Mobile Services Division Chief Michael Sullivan.

The FCC's Mike Sullivan noted that some 5200 applications have been received for the first round of the markets above the top 90 (91 through 120), and they're presently being sorted. None had been accepted for filing as of then. Those found to be conforming to the rules will go on a list as accepted, and then into the lottery hopper.

Sullivan admitted that lotteries weren't well-liked, saying that "leaving things to chance isn't the best way of doing things," then proceeding to explain the faults of the comparative-hearing process. Even in those, he said, "it comes down to a coin toss; it's hard to tell the difference between many applications."

In Sullivan's own opinion (not the FCC's), the best possible way to select licensees is by an auction. "Let the people in the marketplace decide what a cellular system is worth." He feels that a lottery is the "second-best" method.

He says the next round of filings won't be until next April.

Brian Kirkpatrick, also addressing the first round of the fourth tier (91 through 120), observed that the large number of filings indicated that the game plan seemed to be filing in all markets in the hope of getting at least one or more. He also feels that it makes "good sense to establish pre-lottery partnerships" to further increase the chances. On the average, the latest round resulted in an average of 169 non-wireline applications filed for each market.

A probability table developed by his firm showed that an RCC filing in all 30 of the first fourth-tier markets had a 16.5-percent probability of winning one market, falling to 1.4 percent for two markets. In a pre-lottery agreement with nine other RCCs, however, there is a combined probability of 84 percent for one market and 10.2 percent for four markets. With 25 partners, there's a 47.6-percent chance of winning at least five markets. "Those are clear incentives to establish partnerships," he said. On the other hand, he added, more partners mean a smaller share of the pie.

The next session explored how RCCs can live with deregulation, focusing on the impact of the new rules. Moderator Michael Menius (Motorola) was joined by Harry Brock (Metrocall), Richard Plessinger (Miami Valley Radiotelephone), Carl Northrup (Kadison, Pfaelzer, Woodard, Quinn & Rossi) and the FCC's Mike Sullivan.

Sullivan explained that, overall, the FCC is examining all of its rules and trying to do away with unnecessary ones. Recently, it did away with the Form L annual report, because "it only took up a lot of space." The FCC is also eliminating the loading standards for paging as of January 1, 1986. Rather than let RCCs have to determine how loaded channels are, "customers will tell you when they can't get a channel." He said the move also makes sense in two-way, but those rules aren't being changed for now, primarily because the commission dosen't have that many channels to give out.

According to Sullivan, the only standards really needed are those to prevent interference. However, those rules that remain, he said, will be enforced more strictly than ever.

Harry Brock reviewed the progress, and in some cases the lack of it, since meetings held with the FCC in 1981 and 1982. He feels there has been a reduction in paperwork, "but not enough." He pointed to an increasing number of errors on licenses received. Brock also noted the impact of cellular on existing radiotelephone service, saying that in the Washington, DC area, there was a 20 to 30-percent drop in IMTS mobiles following the start of commercial cellular service late last year.

According to Brock, "It's time for the industry to start thinking about what happens to the 150 and 450-MHz bands, as more spectrum becomes available in them" due to drop-off in IMTS.

Next year's annual convention will be held September 17 through 20 at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas.
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Publication:Communications News
Date:Nov 1, 1984
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