Column: BellSouth sets out to define PCS

With what have become known as PCS services seen as the "next big thing" in telecommunications, BellSouth's brains trust has put together a position paper on the whole issue of just what constitutes PCS.

“A journey, not a destination” is how BellSouth characterises personal communication services (PCS).

With what have become known as PCS services seen as the “next big thing” in telecommunications, the company’s brains trust has put together a position paper on the whole issue of just what constitutes PCS.

“New networks, new technologies and new services are all milestones on the journey. But anyone defining a particular milestone as ‘pcs’ (or ‘PCS’) is doing so out of expedience.”

Of course, this is partially a dig at Telecom, which has announced it will have PCS services on offer at the end of the year.

BellSouth’s position is that it has always offered PCS, but that the definition of PCS is evolving. A few years ago it constituted a cellphone with voicemail, plus a pager; today, it might be a single handset handling voice calls, voice mail, faxes, fax mail, paged messages, data files, email and Web browsing, plus many of the functions of a personal digital assistant--phone directory, calender, clock, diary and calculator.

As for tomorrow, well, you name it. Innovations are likely to include wireless video, personal numbering, customised one- and two-way text messaging, landline/wireless integration, customised information services such as stock reports or sports scores, global roaming and email access.

While the paper just released may seem, to the cynical, an attempt to say “we were there first” with the Telecom launch due, BellSouth has been using the term to describe its services for several years. Two years ago it announced the rollout of PCS products, with its US parent company viewing the development of the market here as a dummy run for such services over there.

However, the company says its ability to further PCS services has been limited by its interconnect agreement with Telecom, plus the lack of progress on number portability.

Negotiations on both are currently under way.

The other factor likely to affect availability is the allocation of spectrum--written about in this column last week (see Column: Spectrum's the thing). The Ministry of Commerce will be auctioning radio spectrum suitable for PCS-type services some time next year, although dates have not been determined.

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