ORANGEBURG, NY — Now that one of four Americans depend on their wireless phones for important business deals and pressing family matters, they're turning up the heat on wireless companies in the New York metro area to make sure their calls go through. They want reliability, not just the hottest prices.
That's why Bell Atlantic Mobile today, for the first time, unveiled its secret weapon in the battle for wireless network superiority in the New York area -- a souped-up blue station wagon loaded with a quarter-million dollars worth of sophisticated equipment travels the market to objectively measure the service quality of competing digital wireless carriers. Simply put, it's quality assurance on wheels.
Bell Atlantic Mobile drive testing means the station wagon is on the road day in and day out, traversing the region typically from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., five days a week, logging some 3,000 miles each month. These drive tests show that Bell Atlantic Mobile customers are far more likely to connect and hold their wireless calls than customers using competing analog and digital networks.
To maintain that lead, the company will invest nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars in its network company-wide this year, a good portion in the New York area, which has some of the country's most savvy and demanding wireless consumers.
"Network reliability is at the core of wireless service and the key factor customers look for in wireless," said Charles Hand, president of Bell Atlantic Mobile's New York Metro area. "Some forty percent of net new customers choose our popular all-inclusive price plans like DigitalChoice®SingleRate, but attractive pricing and high-tech phones mean nothing if our network cannot keep up with growing customer demand."
With six 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 were only recently made available.
At the heart of the drive tests is an array of portable wireless phones mounted in the station wagon's cargo area and hooked up to the computer equipment, each one making repeated calls on the wireless networks of one of the six companies licensed to serve the region -- Bell Atlantic Mobile, AT&T Wireless Services, Omnipoint, Sprint, Nextel and, in Monmouth and Ocean Counties, NJ, Comcast. Thousands of calls are made from each phone, each month.
Protruding from the roof, like quills on a porcupine, are 15 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.
Hand 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 area.
"It has been said that 'if you build it, they will come.' At Bell Atlantic Mobile we also believe that if they come, we must provide them with a network that allows them to connect and complete their calls. We will continue to measure our performance and employ the latest and best technology to design, optimize and operate a network that lets the calls go through."
In the NY/NJ Metro Region, Bell Atlantic Mobile was named leader in overall customer satisfaction among wireless users, according to the prestigious JD Power and Associates 1998 US Wireless Customer Satisfaction Study. New York Magazine also selected Bell Atlantic Mobile as the best wireless service provider in the New York area in its May 3, 1999 "Best of New York" cover story.
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 from 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. For more information on Bell Atlantic Mobile visit: www.bam.com; on global operations visit: www.bellatlantic.com/worldwide.