McCaw deal to usher in new opportunities


September 21, 1994|By New York Times News Service

NEW YORK -- Having just consummated an acquisition of the nation's biggest cellular telephone company, executives at AT&T Corp. offered a glimpse yesterday of what they mean by "anytime, anywhere" communications: a colossal marketing opportunity.

One day after completing its purchase of McCaw Cellular Communications, AT&T executives reiterated their sweeping vision of how to link the world's biggest long-distance company with the world's largest wireless operator.

To whet appetites, AT&T and McCaw executives described an initial sampling of new services: message systems that beep people when calls come in, no matter where they are; two-way paging systems; and "personal phone numbers."

"We are creating a company that can take wireless technology to places it has never been before," AT&T Chairman Robert E. Allen asserted at a news conference.

But few of those concepts are entirely new. For all the effort to thrill people with exciting new technology, the most immediate result of the merger will be to marry AT&T's world-renowned brand name and customer base with the explosive growth of McCaw's wireless telephone and paging business.

For starters, AT&T hopes to open a new front for McCaw in corporate marketing. While most cellular customers have been business users, cellular companies have generally sold to individuals, not companies.

McCaw has already introduced a product called "Office Cellular," which makes one wireless phone usable inside, as an extension of an office system, and outside.

AT&T plans to roll out a slew of new packages that combine long-distance, paging and cellular services.

Customers using AT&T's "True Rewards" program, which allows them to redeem "points" from long-distance calls for things like airline frequent-flier miles, will now get

points for cellular calls, too.

Using AT&T's database of customers, McCaw will be able to identify customers who are heavy long-distance callers and, through their use of AT&T credit cards, heavy travelers. That kind of information is a treasure trove to a company like McCaw, which relies heavily on direct-mail and telephone sales.

"Television is not a good way to market cellular services," said James Barksdale, president of McCaw and the man who will head what is to be called AT&T Wireless Services. The real key, he said, is refined target marketing.

AT&T's brand name is incredibly valuable. McCaw executives like to point out that AT&T turns up as the third most well-known

cellular operator in its customer surveys -- even though AT&T has not been in the cellular business until now.

Now that it is in the business, AT&T is hoping to develop many new features. Beginning next year, customers will be able to sign up for "personal" phone numbers that use the new 500 area code. That service will allow them to instruct the network where to forward all calls.

The network would be able to page customers to alert them about incoming messages. In time, AT&T executives said, people will be able to screen calls by identifying callers' numbers and instructing the network to either put the call through or send it to voice-mail.

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