Unicel invests $20 million to build high-speed wireless network

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 20, 2005

MONTGOMERY-Unicel announced recently it is investing $20 million to create one of the fastest, most advanced and reliable third-generation (“3G”) wireless networks in Alabama, providing services to residents in primarily rural parts of central and southeast Alabama. The expansion will have a direct effect on Black Belt areas such as Demopolis, Eutaw, Greensboro and Livingston.

The new network features GSM technology with the first regional deployment of EDGE (Enhanced Data Rate for Global Evolution) that delivers a high-speed digital voice and data network, turning Unicel wireless phones into small hand-held computers.

Rich Shultz, vice president of Unicel’s South Region, said the company is very excited about the possibilities presented by their new services.

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“From Vernon to Talladega down to Andalusia and Dothan, Unicel is proud to bring its state-of-the-art network to central and southeastern Alabama, building the wireless infrastructure for residents and businesses across our state,” Shultz said.

Unicel’s multi-million dollar investment is particularly significant because the Enterprise-based company focuses on building its advanced wireless network in primarily rural parts of Alabama, including the Black Belt, to support economic development efforts.

Unicel has added scores of new GSM-enabled cell sites across the region to broaden and deepen its coverage area.

Neal Wade, of the Alabama Development Office said the investment would be a huge shot in the arm for Alabama’s rural communities.

“I’m pleased that Unicel continues to invest in Alabama, bringing state-of-the-art technology here to help support the state’s economic development initiatives as well as the incredible vitality of our local businesses and residents,” Wade said.

The 3G mobile data services, such as those made possible by the new Unicel network, are the future for all of the major carriers in the industry, representing a market worth an estimated $1.5 billion by the end of 2006, according to a January 2005 report from Forrester Research, Inc.

Unicel’s new GSM technology, recognized as the worldwide standard for wireless communication, also supports a fundamental shift in how businesses operate. Mobile workers, whether in the U.S. or traveling internationally, can access data in the field and be more productive, and public safety workers can provide emergency services by easily accessing critical information on the spot.

Shultz said the new services would change the way customers view their phone service.

“From video and camera phones to access to high-speed data and e-mail, games and real-time news, weather radar forecast and sports, we’re offering wireless that can save our customers time while increasing the ‘fun quotient’ of their lives,” Schultz said.

Unicel has invested $20 million exclusively in Alabama to create its new GSM network. The company operates13 retail centers in Alabama with locations in Andalusia, Clanton, Enterprise, Dothan, Alexander City, Demopolis, Selma, Ozark, Talladega, Sylacauga, Fort Rucker, Greenville and Troy.

Unicel also provides services through 34 authorized sales agents.

In it’s three-state (Alabama, Mississippi, Kansas) operating region, the company has 30 sales centers and oversees 97 authorized agent locations in the three states. By the end of the year, Unicel will have more than 165 GSM-capable cell sites in Alabama.

Overall, the company will have more than 300 cell sites in its South region, adding scores of new GSM-capable sites to broaden and deepen its coverage.

Unicel also plans to add new micro- and mini-cell sites, some as small as a college dorm refrigerator, throughout Alabama. These sites can be located in traditional “dead zones” to decrease dropped calls.

Unicel also will enhance service and increase reliability in the following ways: