|Issue:||Latin America II 1997|
|Topic:||Personal Communications Services:Another Step in the Telecommunications Revolution|
|Organisation:||AT&T Public Relations Latin America|
For most Latin Americans, wireless technology has offered the fastest and most convenient way of obtaining phone services. With PCS, the region is poised to adopt this latest technology as it continues to be developed and deployed throughout the emerging markets which are having to meet the needs and expectations for improved telephone and communications services.
The Caribbean and Latin America The telecommunications industry has developed at an unbelievable rate. New technologies are being created all the time to break the barriers of time, location and distance. The wireless sector of the telecommunications industry, as well as the information super-highway, are two excellent examples of areas that are continually evolving to better meet the public’s needs. This article focuses on a new technology that is starting to gain important ground in the telecommunications industry: Personal Communications Service (PCS), it is a proven and efficient new technology that uses the latest digital technology. Personalised communications provide the basis for PCS. PCS is a group of wireless services personalised for the individual, meaning that PCS users can use their handsets to access value added services customised to their needs. These value added services will eventually have the capability to trace the user’s number facilitating call initiation and completion around the world. PCS Characteristics PCS has several advantages over the existing analogue technology. These include improved service quality through the use of digital technology, advanced radio transmission equipment, compact handsets, increased mobility, enhanced service features and price. PCS will utilise the latest digital technology: digital radio communication equipment will facilitate clear voice quality equal to or greater than that of analogue technology, combat fraud, secure voice communications technology and clean up data communication. Just a year ago, AT&T became the first company to offer digital PCS services throughout its United States wireless network. These new advanced services were created to offer a combination of voice, messaging and paging on one pocket-sized phone. Consequently, due to the technology, the battery lasts significantly longer than the batteries in conventional wireless phones. AT&T announced recently that its AT&T Wireless Services and the AT&T Laboratories have developed together a new fixed wireless system that can provide consumers with high-quality, secure wireless communications to and from their homes at speeds much greater than the existing telephone lines. The fixed wireless system will initially provide each household with two phone lines and the capability for high-speed Internet access at 128 kilobits per second, and using sophisticated encryption technology will protect the consumers’ privacy and prevent fraud. “We are proud of these services. Proud because we think they go a long way towards meeting the growing expectations customers have for wireless technology. And proud because wireless technology is the cornerstone of our commitment to be an anytime/anywhere communications company”, said Bob Allen, Chief Executive Officer of AT&T, on the day the company launched digital PCS services in the United States. Now, AT&T is planning to offer similar services to other international markets where the opportunity arises to deploy PCS. PCS demand in Latin America Industry analysts expect an increasing growth and demand for PCS services and equipment, ensuring that PCS will become one of the fastest growing telecommunications areas over the next decade. PCS growth prospects are so great that it is expected to become the means for developing nations to rapidly establish a quality telecommunications infrastructure, therefore demand in these countries will increase soon. Developing countries are currently providing most of the global business opportunities for the telecommunications industry and this trend is expected to increase over the next five years. Even though the current cellular penetration per market is higher in European countries such as Finland and Sweden with 29.1% and 28.2% respectively, most of the industry’s current growth is centred in the emerging world markets, of which Latin America is notoriously predominant. The United States currently has a 15.3% cellular penetration, while Brazil’s cellular penetration is 1.4% and Argentina is 3.2%. When the Latin American telecommunications industry is evaluated, a noticeable reoccurring characteristic of the region is its ability to leapfrog and adopt the latest technology in order to compensate for its low teledensity. In the case of PCS, Latin America has not finished its initial cellular installations, and just like in the US, PCS has become the new technology trend. Governments throughout the region have started to formalise the PCS licensing process due to a strong desire to use PCS as one of a group of new technologies for wireless local loop delivery. The adoption of cellular technology in Latin America has been fostered by several elements: an unsatisfied demand for a basic telephone service. Cellular is still the fastest and most convenient way of obtaining phone services, with the additional advantage of mobility at a local, regional, national and now international level. It introduced most of the markets value-added services such as Call Waiting, Call Transfer, Three Party Calling, and Voice Messaging, which were not provided by the existing phone companies. For most Latin Americans, waiting a long period of time to gain access to a phone line is common. Thus, wireless services have given them an option of which they are taking advantage. In fact, the number of subscribers in the region is expected to grow from an existing 4 million service subscribers in 1996 to approximately 20 million in the next 5 years. AT&T has already made a presence in the telecommunications arena in Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia and Puerto Rico. In these countries, the company has joined with local companies that are leaders in their respective industries, in order to combine AT &T’s telecommunication experience with the local companies knowledge of each market to offer improved and innovative communications services. Brazil Within the region, Brazil will experience the greatest growth rate of all, moving from a level of approximately 800,000 subscribers in mid-1996 to eight million by the year 2002. This will be a phenomenal ten-fold increase over five years. Brazil is currently undergoing rapid privatisation. In 1994, the Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso began the implementation of a widespread privatisation plan affecting numerous sectors of the Brazilian state owned business infrastructure. To date, much of the privatisation has occurred in the energy sector. However, the telecommunications industry is also being revamped by this wave of privatisation. The first item to be privatised in the telecommunications sector will be B-Band Cellular. The country has been divided into ten areas for B-Band licensing. The call for licence proposals from service providers was made in late November of 1996. AT&T presented its bid to participate in the award of cellular licences in Brazil, last April, in what is estimated to be one of the largest cellular markets in the world. Together with its partners Globo, Bradesco and STET, AT&T has announced that the joint venture will invest more than US$l billion over the next five years. Currently, the joint-venture partners are awaiting the approval of the local government. Argentina In Argentina, the Comision Nacional de Telecomunicaciones (CNT) plans to issue tenders for two concessions in the telecommunications sector. This year the CNT will accept bid proposals for the first concession of a personal communications services network. The local media has already made it public that several companies are interested in the Pas bidding, including AT&T, Finelco S.A. which controls Cable TV VCC, Telian Internacional and McCaw. These two countries are just two examples of how each country in Latin America is getting ready to adopt the latest wireless technology. The future of PCS seems bright as it continues to be developed and deployed throughout the emerging markets which are having to meet the public’s needs and expectations for improved telephone and communications services. AT&T’s commitment is to offer the best services and latest technology to make the lives of its customers easier through better communication and access to information. Therefore, our participation and further support of the latest technologies, such as PCS, is in line with these objectives. Conclusion As much has already happened in the history of telecommunications we can expect many more changes in this area. It is reasonable then to assume that any telecommunications company working in Latin America will focus on the further development of PCS technology, which definitely offers new opportunities for the future.