Bell Atlantic puts price on new wireless service

April 29, 1994|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,Sun Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- Bell Atlantic Mobile became the first cellular phone company in the country to put a price tag on a new cellular data transmission technology yesterday, boasting that it will let customers send wireless electronic mail for less than the cost of a postage stamp.

Introducing the new AirBridge Packet service at a news conference here, executives of the Bell Atlantic Corp. unit expressed confidence that its prices would be competitive with existing wireless data services while eventually covering a much greater territory.

AirBridge Packet is the first commercially available service in the East to employ "cellular digital packet data" (CDPD) technology.

CDPD is a method of sending data that is expected to be used for a wide variety of applications -- from credit card verification at remote sites to wireless alarm systems and electronic mail.

Bell Atlantic Mobile also announced a series of business alliances to help it achieve its goal of building a nationwide CDPD service by the end of the year. Among them is Wireless Systems Inc., a Baltimore-based Westinghouse unit.

Company executives said they expect wireless data services to account for about 20 percent of Bell Atlantic Mobile's revenues -- or an estimated $1.3 billion to $1.5 billion -- by 2000.

CDPD, which breaks data up into small packets of digitized information and searches for clear channels on which to send it, is an evolving industry standard that will compete with other services that use other parts of the radio spectrum. Industry analysts have expressed confidence in the technology but doubts over whether the service could be priced cheaply enough to be competitive.

Roberta Wiggins, director of mobile communications for the Yankee Group in Boston, said the prices Bell Atlantic Mobile announced yesterday indicated that the service could compete with other established providers.

An average user of the service's electronic mail capabilities would likely pay a base monthly charge of $24, plus 18 cents per message, Bell Atlantic Mobile said.

The company said the initial Baltimore-Washington system would cover the areas inside the two beltways and the Interstate 95 corridor between them. The entire region could be served by mid-1995.

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