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Thumb Cellular – From the Beginning
Thumb Cellular officially opened its doors for business in 1991, but the realization of this company stemmed from years of business on the landline side of Pigeon Telephone by John Eichler, and that hard work and initiative is now being carried on by his sons, Edwin and Neal Eichler as they continue to lead Agri-Valley Communications, Inc. AVCI is now the parent company to Pigeon Telephone, Thumb Cellular, AVCI.net and most recently Agri-Valley Broadband, Inc. (AVBI).
In 1986, Ed Eichler took over as president and chief executive officer, and Neal Eichler as vice president of AVCI and the other interconnecting companies. As president of Pigeon Telephone, Ed Eichler has always been involved in many independent telephone organizations. Through these organizations and the many relationships he developed through the years, Ed became intricately involved in providing cellular service to several rural areas in Michigan.
With the demand for rural cellular service increasing dramatically, the FCC created over 400 RSAs (Rural Cellular Areas), of which there are 10 in Michigan. A wireless lottery was held in December 1988 to determine who would gain the rights to sell cellular service in each of the RSAs across the country. John Eichler died in August of 1988, but ironically on his birthday, December 13, 1988, Pigeon Telephone and associated other companies won the license to provide wireless cellular service in Huron, Tuscola and Sanilac counties.
Thumb Cellular began selling service in August 1991, with one office located in Pigeon, four towers and five employees. Today, Thumb Cellular has four office locations (Bad Axe, Caro, Pigeon, Sandusky), over 40 full time employees and 45 cell sites. The success of Thumb Cellular is largely due to its emphasis on customer service. Customer satisfaction remains paramount at every level of the operation. A host of customer care representatives, sales executives, key account managers, and other employees remain poised to serve customers with help on product selections and account services.
In addition to voice services, over the last two years Thumb Cellular has deployed a complete 3G data network, operating a total EVDO REV A network. This has allowed deployment of such devices as BlackBerry Smartphones, Android devices, high-speed air cards and most recently a residential broadband service offering.