AT&T Wireless Narrows 4Q Loss

Company outlines plans to boost services revenue growth in '03.

AT&T Wireless Services Inc. on Tuesday reported a narrower net loss for the fourth quarter than the same period last year but a worse loss for all of 2002 than for all of 2001.

The Redmond, Wash., company had a fourth-quarter 2002 loss of $131 million compared with a loss of $1.23 billion for the same quarter the previous year. The companys fourth-quarter revenue grew 15 percent to $4.05 billion from $3.53 billion the year before, officials said.

For all of 2002, the company had a net loss of $2.32 billion, compared to $887 million in 2001. Revenue for 2002 was $15.63 billion, an increase of about 15 percent from the 2001 total.

Company officials said AT&T Wireless expects to report a services revenue growth of 5 to 7 percent for 2003.

"We have managed our business well through the hyper-growth phase of the industry, creating important advantages for continued growth in 2003 and beyond," said John Zeglis, chairman and chief executive of AT&T Wireless at the companys annual analyst conference in New York on Tuesday. "In fact, this year we expect to significantly accelerate our generation of cash, very likely turning free cash flow positive for 2003, for the first time in our companys history and a full year earlier than we planned."

At the conference, Zeglis outlined several plans to try to meet that goal. These include plans to enter the Wireless LAN business; a service called GoPhone; a tower-sharing agreement with Sprint PCS and an agreement with Bechtel to lower costs; a distribution agreement with Dell Computer Corp.; and plans to use messaging software from IBM in upcoming mobile service offerings.

The company has entered the 802.11b wireless LAN "Wi-Fi" market with the introduction of GoPort, a public hot spot WLAN service that will give customers high-speed Internet access in hotels and airports. Initially the service is available at the Denver International Airport, where the company has been testing Wi-Fi services since last fall. The service will be available shortly in the Philadelphia International Airport, officials said, and the company plans to expand its coverage throughout 2003.

Starting in mid-February, customers will be able to register for GoPort at and gain access Wi-Fi service at airports in Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, San Jose, and Seattle as well as more than 475 major hotels across the United States through a roaming agreement with public Wi-Fi service provider Wayport Inc.

Pricing ranges from $9.99 for unlimited connections for 24 hours to $69.99 for 30 days of unlimited service.

In the next several months, AT&T Wireless also plans to offer a service called Wireless GoPhone. Designed to simplify wireless services, GoPhone is designed such that customers buy a phone and start using it, and a set monthly fee is automatically charged to their checking account or credit card. This should cut down on customers who shirk their bills, officials said.

The company also is teaming up with major computer companies.

Dell Computer Corp. on Tuesday announced vague plans to work with AT&T Wireless on various connectivity options for its notebooks. The two companies will expand on the details of the partnership in the coming months, officials said.

The company also has plans to offer services for software from IBM. AT&T Wireless Business Solutions for IBM will include access to IBM Lotus Domino EveryPlace and Sametime EveryPlace. This will be available in mid-February 2003.

Finally, AT&T Wireless and Sprint PCS Group on Tuesday announced plans to cooperate in the construction of new wireless towers starting this quarter. And AT&T Wireless and Bechtel Corp. announced an agreement that establishes firm pricing for all phases of cell-site development. Both agreements are designed to reduce network expansion costs.