BELL ATLANTIC EUROPEAN WIRELESS INVESTMENTS ACHIEVE MAJOR SUCCESSES IN 1995; ARE WELL POSITIONED FOR 1996
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 1, 1996
Philadelphia, PA -- As Bell Atlantic Corporation (NYSE: BEL) posted record earnings growth in 1995, Bell Atlantic International Wireless (BAIW) investments in Europe contributed to those exceptionally strong results. These ventures made significant gains in coverage, services, and customers.
Bell Atlantic seeks to capitalize on its considerable domestic wireless experience through selective investments in high-growth, high-return opportunities worldwide. These investments offer incredible opportunities for growth. Bell Atlantic provides a variety of support and guidance, including senior level managers, professional services, skilled expatriates on special assignments, and executives in positions at the board of director level. The success of this approach has been especially apparent in Bell Atlantic's Italian, Czech, and Slovak investments.
Omnitel Pronto Italia (OPI) operates the second nationwide GSM (Global Service for Mobile) digital wireless network in the high-growth Italian market. It competes directly with Telecom Italia Mobile (TIM), the state-controlled group holding the first GSM license. Commercial service was launched in record time on December 7, less than a year after being licensed. In its first month of commercial service, Omnitel took more than 40 percent of new GSM customers, ending 1995 with more than 60,000 subscribers. During the first quarter of 1996, the customer base has grown to more than 105,000.
To serve those customers, Omnitel in 1995 constructed 600 cell sites. Its network covers more than 40 percent of the country and more than 70 percent of Italy's 58 million people.
OPI is focusing on customer care as a prime way of differentiating itself from the competition. This approach addresses customer needs through technological leadership, innovative marketing initiatives, vast distribution, and a world-class customer service organization housed in three customer care centers staffed 24 hours a day.
Italian consumers can visit five company-owned Spazio Omnitel stores. There, they can learn about OPI's rate plans, sign up for service on the spot, have a phone repaired and borrow an emergency replacement, or try a free call on the network. There will be 20 stores by year-end. Customers can also get service at more than 2,100 indirect distribution outlets. OPI currently offers four pricing plans, targeting both business and consumer users.
Bell Atlantic is an 11.6 percent shareowner of Omnitel.
The EuroTel companies, the sole licensees in the Czech and Slovak republics, also recorded strong gains in 1995. Many of their activities centered on reaching out to both business users and consumers.
EuroTel Praha, in the Czech Republic, has been awarded a GSM license to build a digital network when the market is opened to competition in 1996. During 1995, its customer base grew 65 percent to more than 45,000 users. Today it has more than 50,000 customers. Minutes of use per customer remained exceptionally high. The company added 71 cell sites to bring the total to 158 in its NMT 450 analog network and give more than 90 percent of the population access to service.
Six EuroTel-owned Customer Care Centers were added to the six already in operation, offering customers one-stop shopping for wireless service and equipment. Seven more are slated to open in 1996. A direct sales force focuses on mid- to large-sized business accounts. Service is also available through a network of more than 90 dealer locations across the republic. Customer service is available 15 hours a day. A fraud protection system was introduced in 1995 and was augmented with a PIN code system in February 1996.
In Slovakia, EuroTel Bratislava's customer base doubled to more than 12,000 in 1995. Usage remained high. Fifty cells, up from 33, serve the country in a 450 NMT network, giving more than 70 percent of the population access to service.
EuroTel Bratislava is focusing on expanding its presence throughout the republic, and in 1995 renovated, replaced, or opened a customer care center in each of the republic's three regions. It is also expanding its distribution network to include dealers and a dedicated major-accounts sales force.
The EuroTel systems went into commercial service in September 1991. Bell Atlantic is a 24.5 percent shareowner in each of the EuroTel companies.
"Italy's vibrant wireless market, and the pent-up demand there even in a competitive environment, typify the opportunities offered by the international marketplace," said Thomas A. Bartlett, president and CEO of Bell Atlantic International Wireless. "And while penetration rates are still relatively low in the Czech and Slovak Republics, we see that as pointing to tremendous growth potential. As we share our 12 years of wireless expertise with our overseas partners, we expect continuing gains in both these businesses and future investments."
BAIW's focus on Europe was further strengthened by the appointment late in December of Richard R. Lockwood as vice president and regional manager-European and Asia/Pacific wireless operations. Lockwood, most recently executive vice president-customer care for Omnitel, is stationed in Milan. In his new capacity, Lockwood oversees operations at Omnitel and the EuroTel companies. He will also pursue future ventures in Europe and the Pacific Rim.
Bell Atlantic International Wireless oversees Bell Atlantic Corporation's international investments in wireless operations in Europe and the Americas. BAIW is positioned to increase shareowner value by expanding the corporation's global presence into high-growth areas outside the US. It contributes to international ventures through investments, knowledge transfer, and meaningful operational roles in those businesses.
Bell Atlantic Corporation (NYSE: BEL) is at the forefront of the new communications, entertainment and information industry. In the mid-Atlantic region, the company is the premier provider of local telecommunications and advanced services. Globally, it is one of the largest investors in the high-growth wireless communication marketplace. Bell Atlantic also owns a substantial interest in Telecom Corporation of New Zealand and is actively developing high-growth national and international business opportunities in all phases of the industry.
for more information, contact:
- Karen Ann Kurlander, BAIW,
Patrick Trancu, TT&A, Milan, +39 2 74.90.187