Bell Atlantic Tests Wireless System to Serve Rural Customers

BRAINARDSVILLE, N.Y. — Bell Atlantic has begun testing a wireless technology that could serve as an alternative to traditional landline telephone service for many of the company's rural customers.

The technology is designed to help maintain Bell Atlantic's high quality service for many rural customers, including fewer disruptions of service during severe weather conditions, and quicker, less expensive deployment of new service.

"If it lives up to its potential during our tests, this wireless service will provide some significant advantages for Bell Atlantic customers," said James Moran, Bell Atlantic project manager for the wireless trial.

Known as Wireless Local Loop (WLL), the technology is being used in other parts of the country and in Canada. It is designed to provide individual customers with the same voice and data features available through traditional wireline service.

The wireless technology being tested by Bell Atlantic uses a fixed point- to-multi-point digital radio signal with a secure transmission system that improves the quality of the signal and insures the customers' privacy. The customers are connected to the Bell Atlantic network by way of radio links rather than conventional copper wires. A small radio transceiver is placed on the outside of each customer's home and is tuned into a remote Bell Atlantic transceiver within a few miles of the customer. The network transceiver converts the radio signals into traditional calls and connects them to the local Bell Atlantic digital switching center.

Bell Atlantic began installing equipment for the trial earlier this year and, this month, began a six-month test with about 100 rural customers in Brainardsville, a remote New York community on the northern boundary of the Adirondack Park. It was one of the communities hardest hit by an ice storm that swept across northern New York and New England in January, 1998.

Following that storm, Bell Atlantic replaced more than 6,500 poles and nearly 600 miles of cable damaged by the ice. The cost of network repairs in northern New York and New England was millions of dollars. Many customers went several days without telephone service.

"We expect this wireless technology will result in fewer service interruptions for our customers in rural areas during and immediately following severe storms," said Moran, "We also anticipate WLL will be cost effective in providing basic telephone service to rural areas.

"Currently, in order to provide service to many customers in isolated areas, it is necessary to install scores of poles and miles of expensive telephone wires," he added. "The wireless alternative could reduce the need for such facilities."

The WLL technology uses a "line-of-sight" signal that has a range of 7.5 miles, Moran said, and has the ability to maintain service during commercial power outages.

At the end of the six-month trial, Bell Atlantic will assess the technical and economic viability of the wireless technology to determine how it might be used to serve Bell Atlantic customers.

Bell Atlantic is at the forefront of the new communications and information industry. With 43 million telephone access lines and nine 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 23 countries.