Verizon Wireless adds Mississippi to its national network

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Published: April 3,2006

Ridgeland — Mississippi has a new player in the wireless telecommunications market. On April 1, Verizon Wireless opened a new retail store on County Line Road in Ridgeland across from Lowe’s. (At press time, the company had set April 1 as its official opening date, but said that date would perhaps have to be moved to April 3.) The new store employs roughly 30 workers, and offers a full array of communication products and services designed for consumers and businesses.

However, the bigger news is the infrastructure supporting the store. Verizon Wireless, a joint venture of Verizon Communications Inc. and Vodafone, has built a wireless network in Mississippi that covers all of Central Mississippi and stretches into Southwest Mississippi. Patrick Kimball, spokesperson for Bedminster, N.J.-based Verizon Wireless, said the company has a policy of not divulging how much it invests in projects, but said the outlay by the company in the Magnolia State was “significant.”

However, Verizon Wireless does tout its investment in its national network to date — roughly $30 billion, with $5 billion of that spent last year alone. The Dow 30 company, before the Mississippi rollout, served 51.3 million and covered approximately two-thirds of the U.S. The 55,700 employees and 2,000-plus stores and kiosks generated revenue of $32.3 billion in 2005.

Kimball said Verizon Wireless’ launch in Mississippi is a natural and important step in the company’s continued growth.
“We’re excited about our launch in Mississippi, and see Jackson as a key hub,” he said. “We feel like there is a tremendous opportunity for growth in the South. Verizon Wireless is always looking for ways to expand, and Mississippi is very attractive to us as a new market.”

To call this expansion into Mississippi by Verizon Wireless a “launch” is not totally accurate, as the company had established a small presence in the state beforehand. The company already operated stores/kiosks, and the infrastructure to support its phones, PDAs, etc., in Southaven and in the Gulfport/Biloxi area. (Its Biloxi store, which was on the beach, was totally destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, leaving nothing behind but a slab. Kimball said Verizon Wireless is currently looking for a new site for the destroyed retail outlet) However, the Southaven store serves the Greater Memphis market and does not extend farther south into the Magnolia State, and the Coast service does not extend north of Interstate 10.

Now, Verizon Wireless covers most of the central part of the state with its network that utilizes code division multiple access technology. The Mississippi network stretches from the metro Jackson area north to the Canton area, south to the Crystal Springs/Hazelhurst area (connecting with its preexisting network that reaches to the Hammond, La., area), west to Edwards near Vicksburg and east to the Brandon/Flowood area.

In addition to the Verizon Wireless store on County Line Road, which will house a sales force dedicated to both residential/consumer sales as well as business sales, the company also has a kiosk presence in Best Buy and Circuit City, all within approximately 400 yards from the Mississippi flagship store. And more stores are planned — Verizon Wireless is anticipating the opening of another store somewhere in Rankin County later this year.

Kimball said some of the employees for Verizon Wireless’ new store/kiosks in Central Mississippi were brought in from other preexisting retail locations. But, many were hired locally, and the store’s manager is originally from Jackson.
In total, the Mississippi launch necessitated the construction of more than 100 new cell towers, the installation of permanent generators and more. Kimball said his company has been working on the infrastructure for the Mississippi launch for approximately one year.

Kimball said Verizon Wireless puts a lot of stock in being a part of the local community. The company is known for its support of programs centered on domestic violence awareness and prevention. He said his company would continue these efforts in Mississippi, as well as be involved in other community-focused and/or charitable organizations and efforts.

Continuing the theme of local involvement, Verizon Wireless has chosen The Gibbes Company of Ridgeland to handle the marketing of its Mississippi launch. Founded in 2000 by Denton Gibbes, The Gibbes Company has operations in both Ridgeland and the Mississippi Gulf Coast and is a full-service agency. Terms of the contract were not released.

Kimball said, “I was impressed by the PR talent in Jackson, but in the end, The Gibbes Company stood out as having the best understanding of our needs and the ability to deliver results that meet or exceed our goals.”

Gibbes said, “Telecommunications is a fast-paced, highly competitive business, and we look forward to helping introduce Verizon Wireless to Mississippi. It is a strong national brand with an excellent reputation for quality and service.”

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at northway@msbusiness.com.

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