SW Bell in Cellular Phone Talks

Article excerpt

Southwestern Bell Corp. is negotiating with McCaw Cellular Communications Inc. about linking their cellular operations in an effort to provide nationwide wireless services, a person familiar with the talks said Thursday.

Such an agreement would combine two of the country's largest cellular operators, which together have more than 5 million customers. It probably would stop short of a merger of their operations because of McCaw's proposed merger with AT&T Corp.

The talks come as cellular companies rush to find partners to offer the same sort of nationwide service that is now available through the traditional wired telephone network. In addition to forging alliances to allow their customers to use cellular phones on each others' networks, the cellular companies are combining financial resources to bid for new chunks of the radio spectrum that the government will sell in auctions later this year.

The companies plan to use that spectrum, as well as existing cellular telephone radio frequencies, to deliver communications over new portable wireless devices.

A spokesman for McCaw said it has had talks with Southwestern Bell about wireless operations, but he wouldn't elaborate. Southwestern Bell refused to confirm or deny talks with McCaw. …