Low-cost cellular service to be tested

June 17, 1994|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,Sun Staff Writer

Bell Atlantic Mobile announced yesterday that it would launch a market test of a low-cost cellular phone service in Annapolis on July 1.

The cellular phone subsidiary of Bell Atlantic Corp. said its "personal communications service" (PCS) would be aimed at "value-conscious consumers who need around-town mobile communications." Monthly rates for the PCS Now service would be less than for traditional cellular telephone service, but the coverage area that can be called without a premium charge would be smaller.

Despite the use of the name PCS Now, the new service would not use the portions of the radio spectrum that the Federal Communications Commission has designated for personal communications services -- a higher-frequency wireless phone service that is expected to compete with cellular. The new program is basically traditional cellular phone service repackaged to reach a different market.

Annapolis is the first of three markets selected for testing the PCS service. A second test is slated to begin in the Pittsburgh area Sept. 1, followed by the Philadelphia area on Nov. 1. Bell Atlantic Mobile said it expected to have 500 users testing the service in each market.

Beginning July 1 in Annapolis, consumers in the test would be able to receive PCS Now service for an average monthly service charge of $14.99, plus 25 cents for each minute of air time within the caller's community zone. The 225-square-mile zone includes Annapolis, Severna Park, South River, and Davidsonville. For calls outside the zone, callers would pay a per-minute charge of $1.25.

The PCS Now rates compare with average charges of $24.95 a month and 50 cents a minute for Bell Atlantic's standard cellular service, which covers virtually the entire Washington and Baltimore metropolitan areas.

Robert L. Johnson Jr., Bell Atlantic Mobile's regional vice president, said the test was aimed at potential customers who would be interested in highly localized wireless phone service but who find the prices of standard cellular service too high.

The Annapolis test will last a year, the company said.

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