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Tampa Tribune (KRTBN)

Hispanics Generate Much Of Telecommunications Revenue In Tampa, Fla.-Area

By Will Rodgers, Tampa Tribune, Fla.

March 17, 2004
Copyright ©2004 Tampa Tribune (KRTBN) Knight Ridder. All rights reserved.

Mar. 17--TAMPA, Fla. -- Angelo and Lorena Graniglia spent $160 on their first cellular bill from T-Mobile. Without the one- time charge of $35 for each phone, the Graniglias' bill still ran about $15 to $20 above the price of their family-calling plan last month.

"I guess it's because we're Latin people," said Angelo Graniglia, who was born in the Dominican Republic and whose wife, Lorena, is Colombian. Both now live in Tampa. "We like to talk a lot."

Such a cultural anecdote is supported by a study from New York-based Scarborough Research. The report shows that Hispanics, the fastest growing minority group in the United States, spend more per month for telephone services than the national average.

The Scarborough study, released in February, has several key findings about Tampa Bay area Hispanics:

--Local Hispanics spend an average of $71 a month for wireless service, compared with an average of $64 a month spent by all area consumers.

--Hispanics here spend an average of $32 a month for long distance and local service each. Spending for all area consumers averages $26 a month for long distance and $31 a month for local calling.

--The average Hispanic in the United States spends more than the national average in all three categories: about 12 percent more on cell phone bills, almost 22 percent more for long distance and about 6 percent for local calling.

Hispanic consumers are a "force to be reckoned with," Bob Cohen, Scarborough president and chief executive officer, said in a news release.

"In the case of telecom, Hispanics tend to place great value on social and family ties, which makes being connected very important," he said. "This cultural nuance places Hispanics among the telecom industry's best customers."

Nanci Schwartz, spokeswoman for Sprint PCS in Florida, said her company sees more revenue generated by Hispanics. The company also makes it easier for Hispanics to work with Sprint. Bills can be mailed in Spanish and cell phones can be switched to display text in Spanish.

"It certainly is a very important market to go after," Schwartz said.

J. Osvaldo Laino, president of Advertising 7 Inc. in Tampa, said there's little doubt about the economic impact of Hispanics in the Tampa Bay area.

As a group, they possess an estimated annual buying power of more than $7 billion with an average household income of $57,265 in the 10-county region in Scarborough's study.

One in six people in Hillsborough County is of Hispanic descent.

Their median age here, at 29, also is more coveted by many advertisers than the the local non-Hispanic median age of 44.

Laino said that Hispanics in the United States drive up their phone bills by calling Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Colombia and other South American and Central American countries to talk with friends and relatives.

Laino also said many of the Hispanics who have come to the United States pay more for their telephone service. That's because they have little or no credit and must use prepaid cards and cellular phones, which can make long and frequent calling more expensive. He also said it's possible that some telephone companies charge Hispanics more.

"Unfortunately for them, they have to pay the premium," said Laino, an Argentinean who moved to Tampa 30 years ago.

Eddie Rios, who manages Clear Choice Wireless at 3304-A W. Columbus Drive in Tampa, said business has been good in the five months since Clear Choice opened its doors in a shopping plaza that caters to Hispanics.

Rios, who is Puerto Rican, agreed Hispanics talk a lot on the phone because of the value they place on relationships. But Rios offered a simpler answer when it comes to some of his customers.

"One of the reasons they spend so much money on it is they want to be in the fad," he said. "They want to get something new. But I'm not complaining."

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