Cingular: Recycled Ideas?

Cingular, a wireless phone company well known for its “Rollover” minutes plan and other innovations, has recently started advertising FastForward. The device is a charging cradle for wireless phones. It lets customers seamlessly forward calls to their home phone – just drop the phone into the cradle. Neat innovation – or is it?

Before it merged to become a part of Verizon, GTE marketed its wireless service under the name TeleGo. Pricing for the service was simple: $25 per month plus 25 cents a minute. People today might have griped about the lack of included minutes and calling services, but back in 1996, it was celebrated for its easy-to-understand, fair pricing model.

However, the service’s best feature was its slick simplicity. When a customer was within range of their phone’s base station, the phone acted just like a cordless phone. Calls to either the cell phone or home phone number rang everywhere – and there were no airtime charges for calls made or received within range of the base station. When the customer left home, the phone automatically changed itself back into a cell phone.

Cingular is usually praised for its customer friendliness, but in this case, a clever idea by GTE beat them to it. (Luckily for them, GTE isn’t around to press the issue.)