It’s the first definitive account of how the American cell phone industry evolved, and it’s the inside story of the greatest government boondoggle in American history.
Written by industry insider James B. Murray, Jr., Wireless Nation details the biggest, most misguided federal giveaway since the Oklahoma Land Rush. In the 1980s, the U.S. government handed out exclusive licenses to run new cell phone systems across the country. At first, the bureaucrats tried to distribute these licenses to qualified recipients, requiring companies to prove they could build and run a cell phone system. But then they changed the rules, leading to comically disastrous results.
From 1985 on, the government essentially ran a casino, awarding these invaluable licenses by lottery. Anyone could win, regardless of whether they’d ever run a business – or even seen a cell phone – before. Hucksters peddled applications to anyone who would buy, and all over America random people decided to try their luck. When the lottery drum stopped twirling, truck drivers, nurses, deep-sea divers and preachers suddenly found themselves newly minted cell phone entrepreneurs. Trouble was, they had no idea how to run a business.
Many of the random winners ended up selling their licenses to true operators – companies like McCaw Cellular, Metromedia, and the Bell phone companies, which were forced to scramble around doling out cash for these “free” licenses. The scattering of licenses among hundreds of lottery winners delayed the industry’s development, and the giveaway robbed U.S. taxpayers of the billions of dollars that auctioning off the licenses would have brought.
Wireless Nation is the colorful, engaging account of the American cell phone industry’s strange history. Despite the government’s ham-handed policies, the wireless industry has flourished, forever changing the nature of communications in the U.S. Wireless Nation is the first book to tell the whole story of the hottest industry of the last two decades.–This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
It may be hard to remember now, but until just a few years ago only an elite few could even hope to obtain a mobile phone–and the service they got, if they were fortunate enough to get any, was both technically mediocre and inordinately expensive.
That all changed in the 1980s, of course, when cellular technology began moving from experimental to ubiquitous and those clunky early car phones went the way of the Model T and telephone operator. The subsequent rush to wireless has been one of the most dynamic business stories of our time, and James B. Murray Jr. does a fine job of running it down and sorting it out in Wireless Nation.
The negotiator of some of the industry’s biggest deals as chairman and managing director of Columbia Capital, Murray has had firsthand access to most of the major players in the ongoing saga, and his book benefits tremendously from the insider’s perspective that these connections helped forge. It also benefits from his novelist’s eye, which virtually puts readers into the center of the action with big-time participants like McCaw Cellular’s Craig McCaw as well as “regular folks” like a middle-aged truck driver named Bob Pelissier who snagged one of the country’s first cellular licenses.
Moving effortlessly from Newfoundland to New York and Washington state to Washington, D.C., Murray deftly chronicles the emergence of the cell phone as a worldwide business and societal phenomenon. He also offers informed speculation on its future, as emergent wireless Internet connections promise to make current technology and consumer penetration look as quaint as a black dial telephone. –Howard Rothman–This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.