Economy

Cell phone industry is weathering recession

T-Mobile employs more than 700 people at its call center at 2525 N. Woodlawn in Wichita, Kansas. The center is still hiring because the mobile phone industry is still growing, even in the recession. Mobile phone companies recorded a good first quarter, even as the industry evolves: people continue to move to smart phones and pre-paid phones, and many people are cutting their traditional phone in favor of a mobile phone.

All of this is testament to how important mobile phones have become in everyday life, some experts say. They are no longer extras but the main form of communication for many people.

But some industry experts, citing recent polling of mobile phone users, question whether industry growth can continue in the short run as unemployment or the fear of unemployment puts the bite on more mobile phone users.

That trend wasn't apparent at the T-Mobile call center in Wichita last week.

It was busy with customer service representatives fielding questions and complaints.

The center was renovated and the in-line cubicles converted to pods. A game room for workers on break is under construction, and the center also has a cafeteria and a room where associates can go to find quiet.

It's aimed, at least in part, at improving the environment for employees, said Bill Jackson, the center's new manager. The company keeps trying to reduce turnover, now about 35 percent at the center.

"We continue to hire here at the Wichita call center," Jackson said. "Throughout the country we continue to increase positions that interact and focus on our customers."

The recession has sped up trends that were already occurring, said telecom analyst Jeff Kagan.

"When the recession started, we all gritted our teeth and waited and watched for changes in the industry," he said. "The changes are not bad."

As the recession forces people to cut back, some are cutting their landlines and going exclusively to mobile phones. That saves $25 to $60 a month.

To read the complete article, visit www.kansas.com.

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