In 1983, a small crowd gathered in Chicago to launch the nation's first citywide cellular service. Today, 23 years later, another seminal event in wireless history is taking place here - the completion of Cingular's GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) network integration.
The network integration, which began shortly after the merger of Cingular Wireless and AT&T Wireless in October 2004, has dramatically improved call quality for Cingular customers throughout the nation. Cingular completed its GSM network integration by reusing existing assets, working closely with vendors, and minimizing site visits by technicians.
"It seems appropriate that the city where wireless began is the completion point for our network integration," said Ralph de la Vega, chief operating officer for Cingular. "Offering a superior network experience, exclusive products and services, and competitive pricing helped Cingular produce continuously improving results, including record profits, some of the industry's highest net customer additions and extremely low churn."
"The integrated network has already paid dividends and provides a foundation for continued expansion," said Ed Reynolds, president of Network Services for Cingular. "The job of building and enhancing the network will never be fully complete, not if we are going to continue exceeding our customers' expectations. It's the nature of our business."
The result of the integration currently gives customers access to nearly 47,000 cell sites throughout the country. The network integration was one of several initiatives the company funded as part of its $13 billion 2005/2006 capital investment to enhance network quality and coverage.
Throughout the integration process, hundreds of technicians from third- party testing companies, infrastructure vendors, and Cingular's own employees used specially designed vehicles to travel throughout the country testing the signal strength and coverage of the GSM network. Even before the network was fully integrated, data from these drive tests showed that Cingular customers could expect the fewest dropped calls of any wireless company.
Along with funding integration, Cingular is currently deploying its 3G UMTS/HSDPA (Universal Mobile Telephone System/High Speed Downlink Packet Access) network throughout the country. The 3G service, which offers mobile wireless broadband connections averaging 400-700 kilobits per second (Kbps), is available in 105 markets (populations of 100 thousand or more) in and around 44 major metropolitan cities. Customers can use the 3G connections to access e-mail and information services or watch streaming video clips from some of their favorite entertainment outlets using Cingular Video.
"With integration complete, we're now focused on quickly offering 3G services in all of the top metropolitan markets and surrounding areas," said Reynolds. "We want our customers to have a similar broadband experience whether they're in their homes, at work, or at the park. Staying connected to information is great - getting it anytime, anywhere and at lightening-fast speeds is priceless."
The UMTS/HSDPA network complements and supercharges Cingular's EDGE (Enhanced Data Rate for Global Evolution) network, available to more than 270 million people living and working in more than 13,000 cities and towns across the Untied States. Unlike some competitive services, all 3G services and features, such as Cingular Video, are also available on the company's EDGE network.