August 18, 1999-SILVER SPRING, MD.-
Wireless customers all want one thing:
clear service and good coverage, regardless of the routes they travel
- along the Beltway, through tunnels, in the city, at the beach, in the
Metro, and around the hilly terrain of the MidAtlantic. In this fiercely
competitive market, with five wireless companies constantly striving to
win new customers, the hottest prices may be important, but savvy consumers
increasingly demand high quality for their calls. That's why Bell Atlantic
Mobile has rolled out its secret weapon in the battle for wireless network
superiority in the Washington/Baltimore area.
It's a souped-up station wagon, loaded with $250,000 worth of sophisticated
equipment, traveling the region to objectively measure the service quality
of all competing analog and digitalwireless providers. Simply put, it's
quality assurance on wheels.
Bell Atlantic Mobile's drive-testing station wagon is on the road traversing
the region, logging 2000 miles each month. The test vehicle collects data
on call completion and call quality for all wireless providers in the
area. Drive tests are conducted by Bell Atlantic Mobile to stay ahead
of the competition.
Bell Atlantic Mobile will invest more than $750 million in its network
company-wide this year. Based on the data gathered in drive tests, many
recent network enhancements have been made throughout the Washington/Baltimore
region, including increasing call capacity, coverage and data services.
"Network reliability is at the core of wireless service and the most important
thing to customers," said Gary Schulman, regional president for Bell Atlantic
Mobile in Washington/Baltimore. "But attractive pricing and high-tech
phones are only as good as the network that delivers the service, and
we must keep up with growing customer demand. We're seeing an amazing
increase in digital traffic on our Washington/Baltimore network every
With five different competitors operating on four different technological
platforms, measuring the reliability of each network -- fairly and consistently
-- is no small task. In fact, the computerized monitoring equipment and
software that allow network engineers to simultaneously compare all networks
has only recently become available.
As a Bell Atlantic Mobile engineer steers the way along the region's
busiest roadways, an array of portable wireless phones chirp with pre-recorded
voices and computer equipment drones on in the cargo area of a stealth-like
station wagon. Each month, thousands of wireless calls are continuously
dialed from the car, recorded and stored for analysis. The tests determine
if a call goes through on the first attempt, if a call is dropped, and
the sound quality of connections.
Protruding from the car's roof, like quills on a porcupine, are 15 antennas
strategically located to give each wireless phone inside the car an equal
chance of picking up the signal from the service provider it monitors.
Schulman said monitoring the performance of the company's network using
the new equipment challenges Bell Atlantic Mobile to exceed its own benchmarks
and strive be the best wireless service provider in the area.
"At Bell Atlantic Mobile, our number one goal is customer satisfaction,"
Schulman said. "That means providing customers with a network that allows
them to connect and complete their calls when and where they want.
"With that in mind, our strategy is two-fold. We will continue to invest
in and enhance the performance of our network and, secondly, continue
to focus on providing outstanding local customer service with the goal
of once again winning the J.D. Power and Associates Award for overall
customer satisfaction," Schulman concluded. "The customer, not the equipment,
is the ultimate judge."
Bell Atlantic Mobile owns and operates the largest wireless
network in the East and systems in the Southwest, covering 180,000 square
miles, and the largest chain of retail outlets devoted exclusively to
wireless voice, data and paging. Based in Bedminster, NJ, Bell Atlantic
Mobile has 6.6 million customers and 8,000 employees from Maine to Georgia
and in parts of Arizona, New Mexico and west Texas. Through its "Wireless
at Work..." community service program, the company uses its technology to
help individuals and communities improve security and emergency communications.
Bell Atlantic Mobile's parent, Bell Atlantic Corporation (NYSE:BEL) is
one of the world's largest wireless communications companies, with domestic
operations in 25 states and international investments in Mexico, Europe
and the Pacific Rim. For more information on Bell Atlantic Mobile visit:
www.bam.com; on global operations visit: www.bellatlantic.com/worldwide.