BEDMINSTER, NJ — Bell Atlantic Mobile follows on the heels of its parent company today in announcing record performance in key areas in 1997, even in the face of fierce competition in all of its markets The company added almost one million customers, nearing or topping that mark for the third year in a row, and increasing market penetration to 9.4 percent from 7.8 percent. Bell Atlantic Mobile now serves nine of every 100 people in its markets. At the same time, the company's:
- Annual churn decreased to a record-low of 1.7%.
- Total revenue topped $3 billion; service revenue was $2.7 \ billion, an 18% increase.
- Operating income increased 29%, producing record cash-flow margin of 43%.
- Low-cost leadership position held fast, with record-low fraud expense and cash expense-per-subscriber.
"The strength of our network, which is the most advanced and integrated on the East Coast, has been a strong, competitive selling point to customers," said Denny Strigl, president and chief executive officer of Bell Atlantic Mobile. "We've made CDMA digital service available in all our markets, and we offer analog cellular service as well, meeting the needs of all types of customers -- from business people using their phones as an extension of their office, to seniors reserving the phone for emergencies."
In 1998, Bell Atlantic Mobile plans to further strengthen its network with a $650 million investment in digital network expansion and cell site and microcell construction that will further enhance its competitive edge.
For customers, this translates into even greater call quality and geographic coverage area.
Based on the strength of its network and its aggressive focus on service and marketing, Bell Atlantic Mobile achieved the following in 1997:
- Added its five millionth customer, as the industry announced its 50 millionth wireless phone subscriber.
- Led the industry in CDMA deployment, now covering 75% of its POPs and all of its markets with the most advanced digital wireless phone service, DigitalChoiceSM.
- Added nearly 1,000 employees to maintain high service levels in the face of 21% customer growth.
- Added 16 Communications Stores for a total of 175, the largest chain of retail outlets specializing in wireless products and service.
- Became the first carrier to introduce flat, predictable monthly pricing for full wireless Internet access from a laptop computer using AirBridge Internet Access service.
- Launched CellscapeSM service for business customers, to wirelessly access select information on the Internet and corporate intranets using a "smart" cellular phone.
- Continued deploying cellular digital packet data (CDPD) technology solutions, most notably with state and local police departments that need their officers to have immediate access to critical databases while working the streets; major utilities that need their fleets to have real-time access to customer information; and retailers that need the ability to make wireless credit and debit card authorizations. Achieved a 74% reduction in cellular fraud by leading the industry in deploying Authentication and RF Fingerprinting fraud-prevention technologies, and sophisticated fraud-detection software.
- Launched MobileMinutesSM pre-paid service that allows customers to pay in advance for calls.
The company's HopeLine initiative, which provides people staying in shelters -- often victims of domestic violence -- with free voice mail service, helped more than 4,400 people last year to secure employment, retain permanent living quarters, resolve health care issues and communicate with their families. The program culminated with the selection of Mr. Strigl to speak at the annual White House event recognizing Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Note to Editors:Bell Atlantic Mobile is the largest wireless service provider on the East Coast and the second largest in the United States. The company owns and operates the most extensive network in the East, covering 111,000 square miles, and the largest chain of wireless retail outlets offering a full range of wireless personal communications services, including voice, data and paging. Based in Bedminster, NJ, Bell Atlantic Mobile has more than 5 million customers and 7,000 employees in the Northeast, mid-Atlantic, Southeast, and -- through a separate subsidiary -- the Southwest. Through its "Wireless at Work..." community relations program, which includes HopeLine voice mail service, Bell Atlantic Mobile uses its wireless technology to help individuals and communities improve security and emergency communications.