Southern subsidiary launches Southern LINC

Southern Communications Services Inc., a subsidiary of The Southern Company, introduces Southern LINC -- a digital, wireless communications service integrating two-way dispatch, phone service, short text/numeric messaging and wireless data into a single handheld device.

Southern LINC functions in areas served by The Southern Company`s five operating companies -- Alabama Power, Georgia Power, Gulf Power, Mississippi Power and Savannah Electric. This 120,000-square-mile coverage area is the largest single wireless communication system in the world.

The system uses Motorola`s Integrated Dispatch Enhanced Network. Because the system is digital, customers will encounter less static. In addition, busy signals and fade-outs are reduced while privacy and clarity are enhanced. With the short messaging feature, messages will be delivered even if the handset is out of range or has been turned off -- the message is stored and later delivered when the handset is turned back on or is back in range. The seamless network operates in the 800-megahertz frequency band.

The Southern Company created the system for workers at its five regional power companies. Wide-area coverage is critical because the power companies serve customers in metropolitan and rural areas. Communication demands are extensive even during normal days, and when severe storms occur, the needs increase further. Redundancies, power backup and security features were built into the 300-tower system to ensure that communication capabilities are consistent.

The Southern Company was constructing the system when Hurricane Erin struck in August. The company was able to use Southern LINC to expedite delivery of supplies, coordinate repair strategies and restore power in record time. Gulf Power estimates that during Hurricanes Erin and Opal, power was restored about 24 hours earlier and productivity was increased between 40 and 60 percent because of the communications system.

Gulf Power also reported that all telephone lines and cellular communications -- except for Southern LINC -- were down after Opal struck in October. When a roofer fell to the ground, a Gulf Power worker used the radio dispatch mode to call a nurse who was in the area. The nurse administered CPR while the Gulf Power worker used Southern LINC`s cellular mode to call for an ambulance.

While the standards for performance and reliability were developed because of The Southern Company`s requirements during emergency situations, Southern LINC is now available to serve the daily needs of businesses.

"In addition to reliability, quality and coverage, Southern LINC also offers convenience and cost savings," said Robert Dawson, president of Southern Communications Services. "One invoice covers all services. And because the services are integrated, customers save more than they would if they contracted services from separate providers."

Southern LINC can be custom programmed. Digital dispatch can be purchased with or without phone service and/or messaging. Handsets can be individually programmed and all or a portion of the service territory can be designated as the customer`s local service area.

In 1993, The Southern Company (NYSE: SO) created Southern Communications Services. The Southern Company`s common stock is one of the 20 most widely held corporate stocks in America.