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
From Publishers Weekly
Writing from deep (occasionally too deep) inside the boardroom, Murray who, as chairman and managing director at Columbia Capital, has put together plenty of deals for telecommunications giants like AT&T Wireless and Bell Atlantic charts the rise of the cellular business, for the most part avoiding the canned statements typical of tech histories. In part because he barely offers a snapshot of each man and his company before flashing forward to the next, the book's setting is its most intriguing element. It begins in the early 1980s, when the FCC auctioned the country's cellular phone markets, section by section, to the highest (or, often, simply the most rabid) bidder. Murray treats us to a detailed look at how a ragtag band of media upstarts (and the occasional conglomerate) often risked their futures on a new and mostly unproven technology and established a multibillion dollar industry. While 20/20 hindsight allows us to recognize what a gold mine the cellular business has become, it seemed like anything but a sure thing at the time. Murray's book is most intriguing when he leaves the inner sanctum where the deal making is relayed in detail but without much sense of perspective or drama and shows us how far cellular communications have come (e.g., as recently as 1981, only 24 people in New York could be on their cell phones at one time). Some readers may be disappointed that Murray is more interested in what happened to which company than he is in explaining the societal effects of one of the greatest technological revolutions in history.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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