Verizon to combine local, wireless, long-distance bills

Discounted offer aims to stem customer losses

August 07, 2002|By BLOOMBERG NEWS

NEW YORK - Verizon Communications Inc. announced yesterday that it will combine local, long-distance and wireless calling with high-speed Internet access on one bill to try to stem customer losses and increase sales, which fell last quarter for the first time.

The discounted offer is available to consumers in Boston and New York state, the biggest U.S. local-telephone company said in a statement. It will be sold in New Jersey and Pennsylvania starting next month and to all Verizon's U.S. customers early in the second quarter of next year.

Sales at Verizon, formed by a combination of Bell Atlantic Corp. and GTE Corp. in 2000, fell last quarter from a year earlier by $74 million to $16.8 billion. The phone lines Verizon serves dropped 3.3 percent to 60.4 million as some customers shut off second lines and made wireless calls. Rivals including AT&T Corp. have also begun selling local and long-distance bundles.

"This will help them stabilize their customer base," Jeffrey Kagan, an independent telecommunications analyst in Atlanta, wrote about Verizon in an e-mail message. "The concept of one company, one bill, one check will be very attractive to confused and time-crunched consumers."

The plan will boost sales by $500 million to $1 billion over five to six years, Verizon Chief Marketing Officer Maura Breen said at a news conference in Washington. It will also lower costs, she said.

The company said last month that sales will be little changed to down 1 percent this year, a smaller decline that was forecast earlier. Verizon had $67.2 billion in sales in 2001.

Shares of New York-based Verizon fell 28 cents to $29.87 on the New York Stock Exchange. They have dropped 37 percent this year.

AT&T added California yesterday to the six states in which the biggest U.S. long-distance operator offers a single bill for local and long-distance calls. WorldCom Inc., AT&T's biggest rival, sells unlimited local and long-distance calling for as little as $50 a month. The company filed for bankruptcy protection last month.

By purchasing services together, customers can cut phone bills by as much as a third, or $800 a year, Verizon said. Consumers can choose to combine some of the services, said Verizon.

Verizon begins TV advertisements today for the offer, which includes 300 minutes each of long-distance and wireless calls to anywhere in the United States on weekdays, and unlimited use on nights and weekends.

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