Fast start for Sprint Spectrum Wireless network has signed 60,000 customers, APC says

March 27, 1996|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

American Personal Communications Inc., builder of the nation's first all-digital wireless telephone network, says it has signed up 60,000 subscribers for its Sprint Spectrum service -- almost 10 months ahead of its original projections.

The Bethesda-based company's announcement at the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association convention in Dallas this week was its first release of sales data for the pioneering "personal communications services" network since APC launched the service in the Baltimore-Washington area in November.

Scott Schelle, APC's chief executive, said the company had not expected to reach the 60,000-customer level until the end of this year. "We believe very firmly that we have created in PCS in Washington-Baltimore the fastest-growing wireless communications system" in the world, he said.

The strong sales numbers are likely to encourage other holders of PCS licenses to rapidly develop networks in other parts of the country. Cumulatively, the nation's leading telecommunications companies have spent more than $9 billion for PCS licenses in auctions conducted by the Federal Communications Commission.

APC, a privately held company founded by Baltimorean Wayne Schelle, was able to get a jump on other PCS companies because it received a "pioneer's" license that lets it bypass the auctions.

The company uses the Sprint Spectrum brand name as a result of its affiliation with a partnership of Sprint Corp. and three large cable companies. The Sprint partnership, which owns 49 percent of APC, includes Comcast Corp., Tele-Communications Inc. and Cox Cable Communications.

Mr. Schelle said the network's rapid growth has resulted in some shortages of handsets and some strains on service, but he said those problems have been fixed. He said the company has hired about 100 employees since the launch -- most in customer service.

Mr. Schelle said the company has also added 50 antenna sites since November as it continues to expand its coverage of the metropolitan area.

E. Y. Snowden, APC's president, said Sprint Spectrum has appealed to consumers by emphasizing the clarity of its digital signals, its enhanced privacy and its paging and messaging service.

Mr. Schelle accompanied the announcement with an exhortation to federal regulators to roll back the interconnection charges imposed by local phone companies for completing wireless calls.

Pub Date: 3/27/96

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