Call dropped: Embarq loses wireless customers
As Embarq readies to merge with CenturyTel to become a new landline-based company, it won't be taking some of its customers with it. Embarq wireless subscribers recently received letters and text messages that as of October 1, the company will no longer provide cell phone service.
The trend seems to be more and more phone users ditch landlines to go solely cellphone. Is Embarq-soon-to-be CenturyLink bucking conventional wisdom when it jettisons wireless to stick with a seemingly retro landline biz?
"Since early 2008, the company has been transitioning away from the wireless side," says Embarq spokesman Vernon Fraley.
And the strategy behind the move? "We continue to review our product and services portfolio," says Fraley, "to assure the needs of our customers are met and achieving financial success."
And with the Monroe, Louisiana-based CenturyTel's $11.3 billion purchase of Embarq, the new merged company will hold landlines in 33 states. So Embarq doesn't see landlines as a loser business.
Much as railroads once faded to highways only to bounce back as a hot transportation mode, at least one analyst believes history will repeat itself with wired phone lines.
"I do believe there will be an overload on the cellular network and a point of no return," says telecom consultant Bob Schotta. "There are only so many towers."
Schotta predicts more dropped cell calls because of too many people going wireless. "A business," he adds, "can't afford to be solely on a cell network."
Schotta thinks technology like Verizon's FiOS fiber optic communications network–- which carries high-speed phone, Internet, and TV at speeds "50 to 60 times what you can get around here"–- is the next big thing.
Schotta suggests that the Embarq/CenturyTel merger is an investment and CenturyLink will wait for a buyout offer from a bigger company like Verizon or AT&T.
Meanwhile, customers of the company that was once Centel then Sprint and Embarq have learned one thing: Don't get too attached to the name of your phone company– and do find a new cellphone carrier.