GREENVILLE, SC — In a year with exceptional change and growth in the wireless phone market, exploding customer demand for DigitalChoice smtops Bell Atlantic Mobile's accomplishments for 1998. Also on the company's list of accomplishments is expansion of its coverage area, introduction of the Bell Atlantic Mobile Online Store, and doubling the reach of its "Wireless at Work" community service program.
"Digital really took off in 1998," said Jerry Fountain, vice president for Bell Atlantic Mobile's Southeast region. "We believe that the dramatic increase in consumer interest in digital is due to the dual approach we took in making it more affordable and more available to the average consumer."
"The increase in DigitalChoice customers is especially impressive due to increasing competition in the market," continued Fountain. The Southeast is one of the top wireless regions in the nation, with as many as six wireless providers in a single area. Charlotte, for example, is one of the top five markets in wireless penetration in the nation with more than 34 percent of its population subscribing to wireless services, according to a recent wireless industry study.
Digital sales jump more than 400 percent with launch of DigitalChoice SingleRate
In September, the company announced DigitalChoice SingleRate sm pricing for digital wireless phone users. These new pricing plans include one flat rate with no long distance or roaming charges. In conjunction with the new pricing, the company initiated other significant cost benefits for its DigitalChoice SingleRate customers, including no charge for the first incoming minute on most plans.
Prior to the introduction of DigitalChoice SingleRate, digital sales in the company's Southeast region accounted for 8 percent of all new customer activations. Digital sales quadrupled to 35 percent of all new activations.
Network expansion includes digital connection of major markets
In August, Bell Atlantic Mobile expanded its coverage area by more than 1,100 square miles with the addition of North Carolina's Buncombe and Madison counties.
This latest acquisition increases the size of Bell Atlantic Mobile's SuperSystem - the area in which customers in the Southeast can call at their home airtime rate - to more than 36,000 square miles in North Carolina, South Carolina and northeast Georgia. Bell Atlantic Mobile also aggressively expanded digital coverage within the SuperSystem.
With DigitalChoice service activated in Hickory in October and Asheville in December, Bell Atlantic Mobile became the first and only wireless provider in the Carolinas to offer continuous digital service connecting the metropolitan regions of Columbia and Greenville, S.C., and Charlotte, Hickory and Asheville, N.C., along I-85, I-77, I-26 and I-40. DigitalChoice service offers important benefits, including superior call clarity and voice quality, on the company's network; and features such as caller ID, short-text messaging, paging, enhanced privacy and security and increased battery life.
Innovations meet increasing consumer demands
In September, Bell Atlantic Mobile became the first wireless service provider to open a fully automated "store" on its Web site. By visiting the Online Store at http://www.bam.com and following a few easy steps, consumers can order wireless service, cellular phones and accessories that fit their needs, all from their personal computer. The Customer Care Guarantee, a company-wide promise to customers announced in March, guarantees the best deals, best rates and best service Bell Atlantic Mobile has to offer.
The three-fold guarantee allows customers to take advantage of current airtime and equipment promotions when extending their service, change their rate plan at any time, and return or exchange any wireless phone within 30 days if not completely satisfied. Bell Atlantic Mobile concentrated heavily in 1998 on "Wireless at Work", its community service program that uses the company's wireless technology to help individuals and communities improve security and emergency communications.
Community service efforts intensified
The company fulfilled its pledge to double donations of wireless phones and voice mail boxes to organizations in the Southeast region assisting victims of domestic violence. In all, more than 25 organizations received a total of almost 100 wireless phones programmed to dial emergency numbers at the touch of a button and more than 110 voice mail boxes assisting victims residing in shelters in communicating with friends and family, potential landlords and employers.
Bell Atlantic Mobile also expanded its role in domestic violence awareness. During October's Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the company's 27 Communications Stores in the region were drop-off sites for donations for local battered women's shelters. Bell Atlantic Mobile also made cash contributions to statewide domestic violence awareness organizations in North Carolina and South Carolina. The company also continued its affiliation with South Carolina Highway Patrol and Mothers Against Drunk Driving, teaming with the organizations to enlist wireless users in the fight against drunk driving on the roadways.
"Bell Atlantic Mobile has been able to achieve all these successes with the dedication and hard work of more than 700 employees in the Southeast and our corporate commitment to provide the best wireless service, pricing and equipment," Fountain said. "In the new year, we will remain the first choice of consumers across the region by building on the accomplishments of 1998."
Bell Atlantic Mobile owns and operates the largest wireless network in the East, covering 116,000 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 5.9 million customers and 7,500 employees from Maine to Georgia and, through a separate subsidiary, in the Southwest. 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 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.