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$250,000 Station Wagon Debuts on Pittsburgh Roads
Bell Atlantic Mobile Test Vehicle Ensures High Quality Network
July 19, 1999
Patricia L. Quolke, 412-563-0367
PITTSBURGH, PA -- Wireless customers all want one thing: network
service quality that makes their calls go through. In the fiercely
competitive Pittsburgh market, with five wireless companies constantly
striving to win new customers, the hottest prices may be important, but
savvy consumers increasingly demand quality for their calls.
That's why Bell Atlantic Mobile has rolled out its secret weapon in the
battle for wireless network superiority in western Pennsylvania -- a
souped-up blue station wagon, loaded with a quarter-million dollars worth
of sophisticated equipment, traveling the region to objectively measure the
service quality of competing digital wireless providers. Simply put, it's
quality assurance on wheels.
Bell Atlantic Mobile drive testing means the station wagon is on the road
traversing the region, logging nearly a thousand miles each month. The
test vehicle winds through the most densely traveled roadways in
Allegheny County and the eight surrounding counties, collecting data on
call delivery and call quality for all wireless providers in the area.
These drive tests, conducted during the busy calling times between 8 a.m.
and 4 p.m., are designed to help Bell Atlantic Mobile stay ahead of the
With that goal in mind, the company will invest nearly three-quarters of a
billion dollars in its network company-wide this year, a good portion in
Pittsburgh addressing the topographical challenges the local terrain
"Network reliability is at the core of wireless service and the most
important thing to customers," said Roger Tang, regional vice
president for Bell Atlantic Mobile in Pittsburgh. "Nearly every new
customer in Pittsburgh now selects one of our popular DigitalChoice? or
SingleRatesm calling plans. 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 Pittsburgh network every week."
With five different companies, 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 highways, an array of portable wireless phones chirp with pre-
recorded voices and computer equipment drones on in the cargo area of a
stealth-like Ford Taurus. 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 nine 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.
Tang said monitoring the performance of the company's network using the
new equipment challenges Bell Atlantic Mobile to exceed its own
benchmarks and strive to remain the best wireless service provider in the
"At Bell Atlantic Mobile, our number one goal is customer
satisfaction," Tang 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," Tang concluded. "The
customer, not the equipment, is the ultimate judge."
In the Pittsburgh Region, Bell Atlantic Mobile was named the leader in
overall customer satisfaction among wireless users, according to the
prestigious J.D. Power and Associates 1998 U.S. Wireless Customer
Bell Atlantic Mobile owns and operates the largest wireless network in the
East, covering 120,000 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 6.4 million customers and 8,000
employees form Maine to Georgia and, through a separate subsidiary, in
the Southwest. 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.
The company's Pittsburgh Regional Headquarters in Thorn Hill Industrial
Park in Warrendale, Pennsylvania, includes a local Customer Service
Department to provide personalized service to area residents and local
businesses. A network of more than a dozen Communications Stores
throughout the Region provide convenience and access to certified
technicians to install, test and repair equipment.