Bell Atlantic Nynex cuts cell phone roaming rates


Bell Atlantic Nynex Mobile, the newly combined wireless affiliate of two regional Bell companies, said yesterday that it would slash its "roaming" rates for subscribers using their cell phones outside their home region.

The company, formed July 1 out of the merger of Bell Atlantic Mobile and Nynex Mobile, said it would eliminate all daily roaming charges through an area that stretches from Maine to Fredericksburg, Va. In addition, it cut the per-minute charge for roaming within the region from 75-99 cents to a consistent 59 cents through the region.

Bell Atlantic Nynex had been expected to make such a price cut to take advantage of the marketing opportunity created by the union of the cellular companies serving the Northeast and the mid-Atlantic. However, the move falls short of matching rival Cellular One's 50-cent-per-minute roaming rate between Baltimore-Washington and the largest Northeastern markets -- New York, Boston and Philadelphia.

Audrey Schaefer, a spokeswoman for Bell Atlantic Nynex, said the new MobileReach service was nevertheless competitive.

"It provides the best value. It doesn't mean it will be the cheapest," she said. Ms. Schaefer explained that Bell Atlantic's 59-cent calling region covered a contiguous geographical region, while Cellular One's has gaps in some areas of the Eastern seaboard. Connecticut, for instance, is not covered by an agreement with the local carrier that would let Cellular One charge 50 cents a minute.

Elliott Hamilton, a cellular industry analyst with EMCI in Washington, said he was not surprised that Bell Atlantic Nynex had declined to engage in a bidding war with Cellular One. "It's not like they have to lower it to the same price," Mr. Hamilton said.

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