Omnitel Reaches 2.5 Million Customers in Just Over Two Years

Philadelphia, PA — Omnitel Pronto Italia today announced it added more than 2.5 million wireless subscribers in little more than its first two years of service. Omnitel, Bell Atlantic's wireless investment in Italy, became that country's first private digital wireless operator when it launched service in December of 1995. On December 31, 1997, Omnitel had 2,460,000 customers and added 40,000 new customers in the first week of January 1998, a traditionally slow period for sales. The company, which ended 1996 with 713,000 subscribers, marked a 250 percent growth rate during 1997.

"Stars shine in every direction, and Omnitel has been lighting up everything from customer care to network innovation to marketing programs," said Tom Bartlett, CEO and President of Bell Atlantic International Wireless. "We're proud to have actively contributed to such a tremendous success story."

Bell Atlantic and Omnitel point to a number of factors that make Omnitel one of the fastest-growing wireless startups in history. For instance, in 1997:

  • Digital network coverage reached 83 percent of the market and 98 percent of the population;

  • Omnitel was the only telecommunications provider to win the Teleperformance Gold Award for customer care; and

  • Rechargeable pre-paid cards were introduced allowing customers to track usage right on their phone's screen, in real time.

While rechargeable cards added a new segment to Omnitel's overall customer mix, subscriptions to traditional business and corporate plans more than doubled during the year. The strong growth helped Omnitel boost its share of the digital GSM (Global System for Mobile) market to 35 percent.

Omnitel's success also has extended beyond service levels and customer growth. The company's 1997 Lit.2.8 trillion (about U.S.$1.6 billion) financing earned it Project Finance International's "Deal of the Year" award for telecommunications.

Among considerations for the award, the deal was cited for its short closing time, the number and stature of the underwriters - more than 60 financial institutions of which 27 were Italian - its innovative terms, and sound fiscal structure.

The financing also enticed the European Investment Bank and the European Investment Fund to play a role in the deal.

This is the second time in two years that Omnitel has been awarded this international honor.

Bell Atlantic - formed through the merger of Bell Atlantic and NYNEX - is at the forefront of the new communications, information and entertainment industry. With 40 million telephone access lines and 5.8 million wireless customers worldwide, Bell Atlantic companies are premier providers of advanced wireline voice and data services, market leaders in wireless services and the world's largest publishers of directory information. Bell Atlantic companies are also among the world's largest investors in high-growth global communications markets, with operations and investments in 21 countries.