"It was sad," says Mr. Schelle. "We had a great company and a great idea. . . . It was a big hurt, frankly."
Bruised but not beaten, he bounced back the next year by founding Schelle Cellular near Ruxton in Baltimore County.
Schelle Cellular Group, which helps companies buy or sell cellular networks or licenses, has several affiliates today: Ruxton Capital Group Inc.; Ruxton Cellular Group Inc.; Keene Cellular Group Inc.; and Schelle, Warner, Murray and Thomas Inc., an investment banking firm specializing in raising funds for the telecommunications industry. The companies posted sales of $8.9 million last year.
If all goes well in Washington next year, the Schelle empire may expand to include another line of business: setting up PCNs.
"I feel as confident about this as I did about cellular," says Mr. Schelle. "Only this time, people aren't calling me crazy; they're getting on the bandwagon."
Indeed, the FCC has issued about 17 experimental licenses to various operators to build PCN networks in major markets across the country. But Mr. Schelle's group is the only one to formally announce financing arrangements and a construction schedule.
Industry observers say some of the other licensees are probably waiting to see how the early PCN operators fare, hoping to learn from their mistakes before taking the financial plunge themselves.
And that's just fine with Mr. Schelle, who hopes to have an instrumental role in bringing yet another new technology to the fore.
With a twinkle in his eye, he says, "Having the chance to be on the first rose of summer is really a very special opportunity."