Harborough – and Leicestershire’s – first mobile communications company has been celebrating its 25th anniversary.
Welcomm Communications, of The Point business park in town, was founded in April 1989 by Chris Stanton as Welland Communications.
Many people can’t imagine life without their mobile phones now, but 25 years ago owning a mobile was only for the elite few who could afford expensive call charges and the incredibly bulky handsets.
Back in 1989, Mr Stanton, the firm’s chairman, had worked in the industry for four years and before that had spent 10 years as a communications engineer in the Navy.
He saw the huge potential available in the industry so decided to set up on his own company, initially working from an office at the back of Stephen Sanderson Transport in Harborough, which he set up as his main customer.
He was soon able to establish a more permanent location with an office at the back of 43 St Mary’s Road in town when a retail store at the same address became available in 1992.
Welland Communications signed up and moved in, setting up a shop, becoming the first such store in Harborough and in Leicestershire.
Mr Stanton remembers his first customer – Dave Bartram – who he later discovered was the front man of the pop band Showaddywaddy.
Mobile tariffs were very different in those days, with the only charges being airtime, peak, off-peak and a special higher rate for users within the M25. Compared to America, the UK market was miles behind the times.
Mr Stanton attended a conference in Florida with Cellnet, which was bought by O2 in 2002, to see how the US was operating and he was able to glean some fascinating advice on how the mobile industry was growing in America, which he was able to put to good use back home.
By the late 90s, technology had advanced with the introduction of 2G and smaller, cheaper mobile devices making it more accessible to the masses and creating the mobile retail boom.
The networks didn’t have their own retail presence in those days, so Welcomm benefited from the huge marketing support and funds the networks offered to open up shops, which led to the opening of additional stores in Leicester, Bedford, Mansfield and Doncaster.
Welcomm later expanded into fixed businesses line connections to manage their voice and data services. Working in the business-to-business sector became Welcomm’s main strength.
To celebrate its anniversary it is holding several events including free demo briefings for district businesses and its customers. For more details see website www.surveymonkey.com/s/2VM3ZXF.
For more details about the firm, see its website at www.welcomm.co.uk.
Story by Alex Blackwell.