GTE announces start-up of cellular service in Sapporo, Japan

STAMFORD, Conn. -- GTE announced that Digital TU-KA Hokkaido today started 1.5 GHz digital cellular service in Sapporo, Japan. This is GTE's seventh operating cellular investment in Japan. It is part of a broader GTE effort ultimately comprising a nationwide seamless network of nine companies.

"Japan continues to be of strategic importance to GTE," said Lee K. Toole, GTE vice president - Asia/Pacific. "We remain confident in the steps being taken to reshape the Japanese telecommunications environment."

The new company, Digital TU-KA Hokkaido, was formed in July 1995 by Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., Japan Telecom Co., Ltd., GTE International and 38 other investors. The service area covers 5.7 million people comprising Hokkaido prefecture, Sapporo, and the historic treaty-port city of Hakodate. Ericsson provided the network equipment. Coverage includes 90 percent of the greater Sapporo area and 83 percent of Hokkaido prefecture. The company became fully operational in 17 months, a new record in Japan. The number of subscribers is expected to reach 310,000 by 2000, up from 25,000 at the start of operations. GTE has a representative on the board of directors and owns 4.5 percent of the company, equal to the largest foreign shareholding.

"Sapporo is a growth market. It is not only the site of the Olympic winter games and the world-famous Sapporo snow festival, it is also Japan's location of choice for high-tech start-up companies because of many universities and pristine environment," said K. Terashima, president of the new company and former international executive of Nissan Motors.

GTE is one of the largest publicly held telecommunications companies in the world, and its stock is traded on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, as well as the New York Stock Exchange and others around the world. GTE has had a presence in Japan since 1974 through its Tokyo-based GTE Far East Services Limited.