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First cellular phone service - 1980s

Congress authorized (required) the FCC, Federal Communications Commission, to establish licensing and rules for two companies in major metropolitan markets to build cellular phone systems based on the Bell labs AMPS analog technology. Key words here being, of course, "Congress" and "build". 


The AT&T Bell Operating System companies, a huge monopoly in the U.S. and Canada, had just been broken up by the Federal Court into seven smaller companies – Ma Bell broken into seven Baby Bells. An apt analogy:  one huge Grizzly monopoly had  “reproduced” itself into seven “little” Grizzly Baby Bells, each with imbedded AT&T knowledge and business practices. Oh my.


Think of Government Agencies this way – the Commerce Dept., Interior Dept., National Park Service, Marine Corps, FBI, etc. – all are licensed by the Congress, with Constitutional authority, to be United States Government mandated Monopolies.


But, since the Federal Courts frown on monopolies, the FCC, keeping that in mind, made sure the cellular phone system would not be a monopoly. It mandated competition by setting up licensing for two cellular systems in each evolving market, larger cities first. Competition, good for the customers, right?


A & B = Competition = Good For Customers?

The two cellular licensed companies would be designated  "A" company and "B" company in each market. Built-in competition, built-in competitors. Yeah. The "A" companies would be licensed by the Government as the "good ole boys" local investors, entrepreneurs, local hard working small business people. The "B" companies would be licensed by the Government right from the ranks of telecom experienced Ma Bell type companies, almost all Baby Bells, some GTE Mobilnet companies. Yeah.


To expedite this desirable new technology for the citizens, the FCC issued construction permits right away to the Ma Bell “B” companies because they supposedly had the built-in expertise for rapid construction and build-out to bring cellular to market quickly. Right.


FCC then announced the issuing of construction permits for the "A" companies, "good ole boys" local investors, local hard working small business people would take place one year later. Some observers suggested this delay may have been due to the grizzly-sized lobbying efforts of the Baby Bells in Washington, D.C. – in order to provide a disadvantage to the "A" companies and local entrepreneurs. But, entrenched monopolies like Ma Bell corporations are not really that clever, are they? Yeah.


Marketing plans were already being developed by the Bell type "B" cellular licensees to build out their Government mandated monopoly with a one year head start. Utilizing the already-in-place commissioned "Telecom Agent" plan with enhancements made sense. These sales and marketing systems were in use in telephone, long distance, paging, and RCC (Radio Common Carrier) reselling operations and other recurring billings non-government industries.


Cows?  Yep, -  Cash Cows