Nextel unleashes its network in northwest Michigan

TRAVERSE CITY – Using a wireless communication device as an intercom or tapping onto the Internet without a phone jack in sight are just two of the fully-integrated data services in the works by Nextel Communications, which opened its first Traverse City office last month.

“This is not a commodity product,” said Todd Weller, general manager of West Michigan for Nextel. “This is truly a business tool.” Two years in the making, Nextel has officially launched an all-digital wireless network in northwest Michigan, connecting its customers to the largest all-digital coverage in the United States and in over 65 countries around the world.

“We are the only carrier who owns and operates their own system in Detroit, the Tri-Cities, Grand Rapids, Flint and Traverse City,” Weller noted.

Temporarily located at 1020 Hastings St., Nextel is awaiting the move into its permanent location at 2040 U.S. 31 South in Hartman Hills. The move is expected to happen this fall, and with it will come the launching of Nextel Online–wireless Internet connection–and Nextel Direct Connect–digital two-way radio capability.

“Nextel Online is available in certain cities already, but it will be new to Michigan,” Weller noted. “And Direct Connect is very unique because it lets you get in touch business to business. With one touch of a button you can connect to another Nextel phone like an intercom.”

These two upcoming products, combined with Nextel’s current digital cellular service and alpha-numeric pagers, are what Nextel has dubbed its “4-in-1 business solution.”

All four products will be available this fall, while Nextel phones and paging systems can be found now at three area distributors: Basic Communications and Netcom Communications, both in Traverse City, and Wave Communications in Kalkaska. One popular feature with Nextel’s phone service is its lack of roaming fees in Michigan; every call is local through the digital network.

“Obviously,” Weller noted, “the upfront costs are the biggest. From there companies just pay a recurring monthly charge. And there is a true focus on customer’s needs before we implement the product.”

Nextel also offers systems where your phone number is good anywhere in the world.

“We just launched the first international one-number phone in the last two months,” Weller said. “I can travel internationally and have my phone ring in Paris the same as it would here. It’s a huge success with business travelers.”

Nextel’s systems can be customized for any size business and their growing customer base ranges from office management to field management.

“We have more and more white-collar customers like brokers who need instant stock quotes and Internet connections,” he said. “And we have a lot of customers who are in the field on a daily basis, like those in the construction business who traditionally use two-way radios and need instant connectivity.”

As technology permeates every type of business, Nextel, headquartered in Reston, Va., has grown. It currently has eight offices in Michigan and numerous distributors.

It ended the first quarter of 2000 with a worldwide subscriber base of approximately 5.6 million global digital subscribers, and consolidated revenue up 63 percent from first quarter 1999 to $1.08 billion.

Nextel’s Traverse City office can be reached at (231) 922-0410. Product and company information can be found on line at BIZNEWS