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Cellular cool


Wireless phones must-have for collegians

May 30, 2000
Web posted at: 6:50 p.m. EST (2250 GMT)

CHAPEL HILL, NC (CNNSB) -- Cell phones have become standard gear for today's college students. But with this convenience comes a price.

The explosion of new technologies such as cell phones and pagers is endangering one of the most basic components of telephone use -- the telephone number, said Erin Duffey, a lawyer with the North Carolina Public Utilities Commission.

"Some of the more frightening statistics indicate that the whole North American numbering system could exhaust by the year 2006 or 2007," Duffey said.

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Duffey said consumers purchase cell phones and pagers at a phenomenal rate, straining the availability of area codes. Fearing that regions could run out of area codes sooner than later, the Federal Communications Commission warned March 17 that a new system must be put in place to allot telephone numbers.

One of the biggest cell phone users, according to BellSouth Mobility, is the college student.

"Twenty five to 35 percent of our new wireless customers are new to the category; in other words, they've not had service before," said Laine Seeley, area marketing manager for BellSouth Mobility in Raleigh, North Carolina. "And probably a majority of that 25 to 35 percent are students."

Seeley said the convenience, low price and even cool colors of cell phones are simply a must-have for many college students, and they seem to agree.

"A lot of my friends have cell phones," said Kia Scott, 18, a freshman at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "We need them because we travel a lot. I see them talking on campus. I see people everywhere -- in the middle of the streets, on buses -- talking on cell phones."

"Basically, my parents got one for me because I do a lot of driving out on the roads at night," said Anna Tharrington, 18, also a UNC freshman. "Originally it started out as an emergency thing; now it's kind of turned into a social thing, like calling your friends and stuff like that."

The students give no indication that they will be lessening their reliance on cell phones and pagers. If anything, more can be expected to get new phones.

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