Nextel Communications has built quite a business selling wireless communications services to businesses.
Under the direction of CEO Timothy M. Donahue, the company has grown to $5.7 billion in sales and 6.7 million domestic subscribers since 1996, thanks to its innovative use of two-way radio frequencies as an inexpensive wireless communications option for regional companies.
But Nextel knows that the advantage it gained with two-way radio service wont last long.
Nextel now offers its customers three ways to communicate: two-way radio, digital cellular and short messaging.
Tom Kelly, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, says Nextel was the first carrier to activate a packet data network that lets its phones maintain always-on Internet connections.
This year, the company initiated "horizontal networks" for its two-way radio service. The new technology lets one Nextel customer talk to any other Nextel customer with the two-way radio service. Previously, a user could contact only those people who were part of a preset group.
Kelly says Nextel was also the first with two-way messaging that allows customers to send short pages to, and receive them from, Nextel phones or any Internet Protocol address.
Nextel is now busy developing applications for its packet network, like its Wireless Knowledge service, which allows remote access to Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Developments Notes.
Nextel also is looking into uses for its network in delivering wireless applications to vertical markets such as field sales and transportation logistics, and was the first U.S. operator to roll out handsets loaded with Java.
Through all of the data innovations, Nextel has remembered which side its bread is buttered on.
"This is still clearly a voice business," Kelly says. "But data helps us differentiate and gets us into new revenues."