EVER SINCE THE TELECOMmunications Act of 1996 was signed last February, telecom companies have been knocked about by the shifting tides of deregulation and new competition. But despite all the challenges facing the industry, business has never been better. The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), a trade group, says in its closely watched review of the market that equipment and services revenues last year grew 11% to $298 billion, duplicating 1995's growth rate. In 1994, the year before the bill passed, revenues grew only 9.7%. The TIA projects that double-digit growth should continue through 2000.
As usual, wireless services showed one of the largest gains--a 23.3% increase in revenues, to $31.4 billion. But the once slow-moving local-calling business also had a good year: Revenues grew 7.6%, to $49.6 billion--the biggest increase of the 1990s for that industry segment. And toll-call revenues soared 6.2%, vs. 3.8% in 1995, to $89 billion. Most improved: the equipment makers that keep the service providers up and running. Phone companies readying for competition boosted spending on their public networks by 16.6%, to $10.2 billion, after a mere 2.7% rise in 1995.