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Southland's 2nd Cellular System to Bow March 28 : Logjams Expected to Ease for the 65,000 Customers in Most Crowded U.S. Market

March 17, 1987|CARLA LAZZARESCHI | Times Staff Writer

Southern California, the nation's hottest and most crowded cellular telephone market, will get its second mobile phone system on March 28, a move that should reduce some of the frustrating calling delays for the region's estimated 65,000 cellular subscribers.

LA Cellular Telephone Co. plans to announce that start-up date today, after nearly two years of regulatory and construction hassles delayed completion of the first phase of the $43-million system.

The start-up of the second system is expected to immediately reduce some of the crowding on the existing cellular network operated by a PacTel Cellular, a Costa Mesa-based unit of Pacific Telesis.

The new system, like PacTel Cellular's, will serve Los Angeles, Orange and the western portions of Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

Since PacTel started its service in June, 1984, the Los Angeles Basin has become the largest cellular market in the nation. Analysts say the region represents about 10% of all cellular users in the country.

Because of the system's popularity, customers throughout the region--and particularly in the affluent Westside of Los Angeles--have complained in the last year of problems making and receiving calls at peak commute times. Although the system has been expanded in the area, demand for car phone service has grown as well.

When LA Cellular starts its service, it immediately will take to its new system about 15,000 to 20,000 customers it has been serving through the PacTel system, freeing much needed frequencies for PacTel's remaining 45,000 to 50,000 customers. Regulators had required PacTel to wholesale its service to LA Cellular until the second system was completed.

Although the arrival of the second system opens the region to cellular competition for the first time, operators of both systems said they do not expect to engage in any price wars to lure customers.

"A cellular system is too expensive to build to engage in price cutting," said Trevor Jones, president of PacTel Cellular.

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