BellSouth Corp. launched its digital-wireless-television
service in its third market last week, going head-to-head against Time Warner Cable in
BellSouth will offer customers in Orlando more than 160
channels under the "BellSouth presents Americast" brand. BellSouth also offers
wireless cable TV in Atlanta and New Orleans.
John Hartman, vice president of BellSouth Entertainment,
said the Orlando launch is one of four markets in south Florida where the Atlanta-based
telco plans to provide wireless video service -- Jacksonville, Daytona Beach and Miami are
expected to be added in 1999.
BellSouth is initially offering the service in Orlando at
$36.99 per month -- about $1 more than Time Warner's basic-cable offering. BellSouth
customers get 40 channels of digital audio, 34 channels of pay-per-view and specialty
channels like Disney Channel included in the basic service.
BellSouth is also guaranteeing its rates for two years,
The Time Warner service -- which has about 570,000
subscribers in the nine-county Orlando area -- currently offers 122 channels, including 41
channels of digital audio and a 24-hour local-news channel.
Given BellSouth's expanded package of services and its
reputation for customer service, Hartman believes that the telephone company will be more
than competitive in the Orlando market.
"Our research shows us that in that market, customers
believe that BellSouth delivers higher performance than any of the entrenched operators,
and that they would prefer to receive service from us," Hartman said.
Time Warner, on the other hand, didn't appear overly
concerned about BellSouth's entrance into the marketplace.
"Competition is not new to Time Warner in this
area," said Diane Pickett, a spokeswoman for the operator. "We have the best
technology with our fiber optic network, more programming choices and high-speed [data],
and our reception is not affected by trees and weather."
Pickett was referring to the line-of-sight characteristics
of wireless cable, which require that there be no obstacles between the customers'
antennae and the transmission tower.
BellSouth said it will pass between 500,000 and 600,000
homes in the Orlando area, and 75 percent to 80 percent of them are within the line of
sight of the service.