It was 1988 —the year of denim jackets, Rick Astley, “Roseanne” and a new telephone company on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
While C Spire Wireless founders Jimmy and Wade Creekmore had been in the telephone business since the 1940s, the company then known as Cellular South began on Feb. 4, 1988 as a player in the emerging wireless industry. Their first historic transnational phone call was between former NFL quarterback Archie Manning and then U.S. Rep. Trent Lott.
“While we opened our doors 25 years ago as a pure-play wireless provider, our dedication to putting the customer first and discovering new ways to improve their lives with technology has never wavered,” said C Spire president and CEO Hu Meena. “Our company has thrived for a quarter century by following a simple credo – doing whatever it takes to be successful.”
Meena said it’s a passionate obsession at C Spire to continue to evolve and innovate to benefit the customer. As it’s grown in the years since, the telecom is always quick to point itself out as the nation’s longest continuously owned and operated wireless provider.
The family-owned company has grown from eight to 1,200 employees servicing more a one million subscribers. With a headquarters visible from Interstate 55 in Ridgeland, C Spire generates a $1.5-billion economic impact in the Southeast through payroll, capital investments and corporate philanthropy.
“We’ve always put the customer at the center of everything we do and that’s one of the reasons we’ve had sustained success in one of the most competitive industries in the world,” Meena said.
While C Spire made news in 2011 with its name change and adoption of trending “personalized” consumer services, it was just another example of how the company has stayed ahead of the curve.
“By making the strategic decision to change our brand and refocus on personalized services, we positioned C Spire for sustained growth and success well into the future,” Meena said. “The brand change positioned us for near term success and long term growth and for the evolution of our company into a fully diversified wireless communications company.”
C Spire Wireless’ premier services include:
» SCOUT: an entertainment recommendations and personalization tool for apps, movies, books and music.
» PERCS: a consumer engagement based program that rewards customers for personalizing their wireless experience.
» CIRCLE: a “destination” where C Spire customers and prospective customers can go to openly share ideas
“The relentless pace of consolidation in our industry has challenged us to be even more nimble, innovative and sharp in our processes, systems and speed to market,” said Meena. In 1999, the company made the comprehensive shift from analog to digital service and was later one of the first companies to offer free incoming calls and flat-rate unlimited service plans.
“We’re very proud to call Mississippi our home,” said C Spire spokesman Jim Richmond in an anniversary video that was released last week. Some of the company’s earliest test markets were in the Mississippi Delta and the network has always remained close to south Mississippi and the Gulf Coast especially in the wake of a disastrous Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
While they’ve grown their footprint all the way to the Florida Panhandle, Richmond says C Spire will continue testing new products and services in its home state.
As phones get smarter and smaller and networks grow faster and more robust, recent events in the C Spire timeline have kept the company a topic of mainstream conversation by its wireless peers.
While C Spire is small compared with regional rivals U.S. Cellular or Metro PCS, Meena says they are the fastest in responding to changing market conditions.
As past president of the Competitive Carriers Association, he continually advocates that the rise of national competitors like AT&T and Verizon could put the country back on a path to the monopolistic 1980s when AT&T controlled a vast majority of the industry.
C Spire opposed AT&T’s failed bid to takeover a struggling T-Mobile and joined a class action suit last spring alleging that AT&T and suppliers Qualcomm and Motorola were wrangling mobile device specifications to put regional wireless companies out of business. C Spire representatives have also worked to lobby and educate the industry about issues ranging from data roaming and 700 MHz interoperability to spectrum policy, licensing issues and handset exclusivity.
The advent of the smartphone led to C Spire’s most recent industry milestone. “It’s hard to resist that Southern charm,” reported Wired Magazine in 2011 shortly after C Spire announced a coveted deal with Apple to sell the iPhone 4S. The industry rippled with shock that Silicon Valley would pass up larger or pre-paid carriers for the small Mississippi company.
“We’ve embraced change and we’ve instilled a sense of passion and ownership in all our employees that through the best of their individual efforts, we all succeed collectively,” Meena says. “Our 4G LTE footprint will continue to grow in 2013 as we bring the benefits of the next generation of mobile broadband services to more consumers and businesses.”