APC to be first in line for...

APC to be first in line for 'pioneer' license

Score another one for American Personal Communications, the tiny communications company that continues to cast a long shadow on the wireless industry.


Earlier this month, the Federal Communications Commission awarded Baltimore-based APC a coveted "pioneer's preference" for a license to provide personal communication services -- the next generation of cellular -- in the Baltimore-Washington area. That means if and when the FCC decides to give the green light to the industry -- and all indications are that it will -- APC will be first in line to receive one of those much sought-after licenses.

"This gives us a voucher for a license in our market," said a jubilant President Al Grimes. "That means APC, at this point, is a player. We don't have to compete."


APC beat out 53 applicants -- including Philadelphia-based Bell Atlantic Corp. -- to win the pioneer's preference designation.

The FCC gave a similar designation to two other companies in two other markets, Cox Enterprises in San Diego and Omnipoint in Atlanta.

APC has teamed with Washington Post Co., publisher of the Washington Post, to build wireless networks in Baltimore and Washington to try out a variety of personal communication technologies.

As of the end of this year, the team will have spent about $10 million on that effort.

The FCC's application fee, by the way, was about $50, not bad considering APC and the other two winners stand to gain a firm foothold in what is expected to turn into a billion-dollar business.

Multimedia guru speaks at seminar

Alex. Brown & Sons Inc. snagged a number of industry luminaries for its 13th Annual Technology Seminar, held last week at the Inner Harbor Hyatt. That included W. M. "Trip" Hawkins, a multimedia guru and newly-installed president and chief executive officer of 3DO Co., the new multimedia venture established last year between Time-Warner Inc. and Mr. Hawkins' company, Electronic Arts Inc. of San Mateo, Calif.

At the seminar luncheon on Tuesday, Mr. Hawkins described his vision of the future of interactive television. And what a vision.


Take sports.

As envisioned by Mr. Hawkins, armchair athletes will be able to take the clicker to new heights. With interactive television, viewers could easily change camera angles on, say, the World Series, and even play along. Click a button and your electronic image appears in the batter's box. Click again and you can "swing" at that last knuckleball that struck out the real-life batter.

How about shopping? Want to see how that Armani suit would look on you? Easy. Just zap yourself on the screen and try any suit on for size. Zoom in for a closer look at the fabric and detailing. Then go ahead and order it -- electronically, of course. With in teractive TV, you don't ever have to worry about leaving home without your American Express -- because you never have to leave home.

"It's going to take a long time to bring this about, but I have no doubt that in another 10 or 20 years, things like these wil be typical," Mr. Hawkins said.

Mr. Hawkins began his address by noting that recent studies have shown that the more time teen-agers spend watching television, the worse they tend to score in math and the sciences. He offered no comment on the intellectual impact of television, interactive or otherwise, on adults.

The seminar, one of the largest of its kind in the nation, attracted about 850 institutional and private investors and representatives about 120 high-tech companies.


European reservation service gets TICKETS

You've just missed your flight to Atlanta. The next flight to that city, as it turns out, is on a different airline. No problem, says the airline, just hand over your ticket and let's see what's available. Crisis solved.

That scenario, played out many times a day at the nation's airports, wouldn't be so easy to handle were it not for TICKETS, the central data base service sold by Annapolis-based ARINC, a communications company that caters to the commercial aviation industry. TICKETS lists detailed information about stolen, forged and lost airline tickets in its central file. The data base is updated in real-time by participating airlines.

Individual airlines do keep tabs on missing or stolen tickets from their own files. But only TICKETS includes data from all the world's major airlines, said ARINC Vice President Daniel E. Sassi.

About half the world's airlines -- 125 carriers -- currently subscribe to the service. Those airlines, which include domestic heavyweights like American and Delta, use the service about 100,000 times a day.

AMADEUS Global Travel Distribution, a major European computer reservation and distribution system owned by Air France, Iberia Airlines of Spain and Lufthansa German Airlines and used by affiliated airlines worldwide, has signed an agreement with ARINC to use the data base.


The deal will bring another 50 airlines on board with TICKETS, leaving ARINC just 25 airlines shy of having all 250 of the world's airlines as customers, according to ARINC.

Sprint hot line offers updates on campaign

As if you weren't already getting enough campaign information.

Sprint customers can now use their FONCARDs to tap into the new Sprint Presidential Campaign Coverage hot line. The hot line offers updates from places like Cable News Network, the Associated Press and the television networks. Calls are 75 cents a minute.