“We wanted to show the technology was truly wireless and decided what better way to do that than make a phone call from a boat,” said Riordan. “So aboard a boat in the Fox River, we made our first phone call to Ireland. It demonstrated that the technology was mobile and that it worked around the world.”
In the first years of business, Cellcom’s focus was on car phone sales and installation. The bulky equipment had to be installed in the trunks of cars and initially cost upwards of $3,000.
“When we launched, cell phones obviously weren’t what they are today,” said Riordan. “The car phones were expensive and could only make phone calls, but filled a gap for a number of people who were on the road a lot. As the cost of the phone went down, our sales went up and more people began to see the value in being connected while on the go.”
The technology has continuously evolved over the last 25 years, going from car phones and “brick” phones that resembled and were as heavy as their namesake, to flip phones and the sleek touchscreen devices of today. As cell phones gradually decreased in size, the number of uses increased. Consumers were quick to adapt to relying on mobile phones for more than voice capabilities.
“It seemed crazy when text messaging launched in 2002 that you would push a button up to three times just to type one letter. Today, we process more text messages in a month than voice calls,” said Dan Fabry, COO of Cellcom. “We’ve seen similar growth with the introduction of internet-based services. When these data services launched in 2004 it was comparable to dial-up speeds. With the introduction of 3G in 2008, 4G LTE in 2012, and smartphones to go with the technology, it is now much easier to consume data through apps, mobile websites and videos. Data use shows no signs of slowing down.”
Since Cellcom launched data in 2008, its customers have consumed two petabytes of data. This is equivalent to 26 years of continuous HD video. On a daily basis, customers are using 10 times the amount of data in 2012 than an average day in 2009.
This data demand is the catalyst for Cellcom’s latest technology evolution, the launch of 4G LTE. This high-speed data network was launched in portions of Cellcom’s service area in April 2012. 4G LTE technology improves data speeds, which is a major advantage in data-intensive activities like streaming video and music, online gaming, and the rapidly growing number of activities with cloud-based applications. 4G LTE technology opens the door to give consumers what they want: faster data interactions.
“Our goal has always been to bring the same technology offered in metropolitan areas to our customers in rural northeast Wisconsin and Upper Michigan. We are committed to our customers and always work to provide extraordinary customer care,” said Riordan. “Our belief is that if you’re not working for your customers, you’re letting your customers down. The launch of 4G in 2012 is another example of how we continue to work for our customers. ”
Cellcom’s commitment to its customers and communities has allowed the company to not only survive the last 25 years, but thrive in the tough wireless landscape.
“If you took a look around the wireless industry in 1987 and today, you would find very few of the same faces. Cellcom is one of the few wireless companies that has the same name and same ownership as when it began 25 years ago,” said Pat Riordan. “Today, the wireless industry is just scratching the surface of the technology, and it’s exciting to be a part of the continued evolution.”