SARASOTA, Fla., Nov. 1 /PRNewswire/ -- Elcotel, Inc. (Nasdaq: ECTL), a leading provider to the public communications market, announced today that it will unveil its next-generation public telecommunications network terminal at its annual meeting of shareholders on November 2, 1999. Dubbed Grapevine(TM), it will combine traditional payphone capabilities with sponsor-paid advertising and content, e-commerce, and personalized information services from the Internet.
Grapevine(TM) represents the natural evolution of public communications, according to Michael J. Boyle, President and Chief Executive Officer of Elcotel. "Grapevine(TM) was developed under a sponsor-paid business model that will allow public communications providers to significantly enhance revenue potential while reducing operating expenses, enable sponsors to deliver their messages to precisely targeted audiences, and satisfy the growing need of millions of public communications users for valuable information whenever, wherever and however they need it," Mr. Boyle said.
Grapevine(TM), designed to offer many groundbreaking features for the first time in the public communications market, is a significant technological advance for the industry. In a separate announcement, Elcotel also introduced e-Prism(TM), its comprehensive system for "back office" support and content management, which will service the Grapevine(TM) terminal network. This proprietary system manages the terminals and is designed to tailor advertising messages and future sponsor-paid content for each individual terminal. The Grapevine(TM) network (terminals and "back office" support) is based on the leading technology of Microsoft's WinNT and WinCE platforms. Additionally, e- Prism(TM) is designed to offer full service capabilities, including reports on usage, effectiveness, and measurement tools for sponsor-paid content.
"We believe that Grapevine(TM) will shift the public communications market away from just providing dial tone toward personal connectivity, sponsored content targeted by specific demographics and interactive services in a public access setting," Mr. Boyle explained. "Essentially, the full feature Grapevine(TM) network terminal will be a content-driven communications portal, a broad new media. Grapevine(TM) is not intended to be an 'Internet phone', where a business traveler with two hours to spend can leisurely surf the web. Rather than bring people to the Internet, Grapevine(TM) will bring the valuable information available on the Internet directly to people on the move. The Grapevine(TM) design is intended to take a familiar product used by millions of people daily, the payphone terminal, and enhance what it can do for users through easy-to-use, content-rich and state-of-the-art improvements."
The Company also announced it has signed a letter of intent with Canada Payphone Corporation (CPC). The terms call for CPC to purchase 45,000 Grapevine(TM) network terminals and services valued in excess of $125 million over five years. Deployment is scheduled to commence in the first calendar quarter of 2000. It is intended that CPC will have the exclusive rights to deploy and market the Grapevine(TM) network terminals in the Canadian market. "Grapevine(TM), supported by the e-Prism(TM) platform, is the most exciting innovation to hit the public access communications industry since U.S. deregulation," said Bruce Clark, CPC's President and Chief Executive Officer. "It will revolutionize the payphone industry as we know it." Canada Payphone Corporation, traded on the Vancouver Stock Exchange (Vancouver: CPY), is the leading national competitive pay telephone service provider and the exclusive provider of AT&T Canada branded payphones and interactive public Internet terminals across Canada.
In addition, Elcotel also has held discussions and demonstrations of Grapevine(TM) with major payphone service providers in the United States and Europe, including several regional Bell operating companies. Grapevine(TM) is currently being introduced for field trials with several of these potential partners. Elcotel expects initial Grapevine(TM) deployments in several regions of the United States by the second calendar quarter of 2000.
Discussions also are underway with major national, regional and local content providers and sponsors regarding their use of Grapevine(TM) terminals as a new media for targeting and enhancing their customer experience. "As evidenced by the commitment of CPC, our discussions with our customers and the response from the sponsor community to this new media, there is an unmet need in the marketplace and Elcotel is going to be the first to satisfy it," said Mr. Boyle.
Grapevine(TM) will deliver tangible, measurable benefits to terminal service providers, advertisers and users. For Elcotel's customers, Grapevine(TM) is expected to provide opportunities to maximize network usage and significantly increase revenue above current, traditional payphone levels. For sponsors, Grapevine(TM) provides a revolutionary new medium that will connect the sponsor's message, products and services directly with the millions of daily users of the public communications network. For users, Grapevine(TM) will deliver connectivity to local and personalized information, business applications and e-commerce capabilities in an easy-to-use, familiar yet new device -- in the same real estate as a payphone.
"Grapevine(TM) will become the easy-to-use electronic tool of choice for people who need to stay in the know while on the go," said Mr. Boyle. "They'll walk up to Grapevine(TM), check on their investments, get directions to a hotel or restaurant, download or upload e-mail through their personal assistant, catch breaking news and send flowers to their mother for her birthday, all from one place, without hooking up a laptop or getting involved in the cumbersome and intimidating process of utilizing an internet kiosk."
Grapevine(TM) modernizes the traditional payphone housing by adding several features familiar to consumers through personal computers and other telecommunications devices. These include a full-color screen, speed dial buttons, a multi-card reader, an infrared data port for interface with personal assistants, and a data port for computer hook-up. While these features and capabilities are built into each Grapevine(TM) terminal, Elcotel plans a phased deployment over the next six to eight months of several special capabilities such as e-commerce transactions and wireless data transfer.
Grapevine(TM), supported by the e-Prism(TM) system, can continually be updated to meet new consumer needs and respond to new technological breakthroughs. "For example, in the near future, we'll be seeing cards that you can put into the phone and download your e-mail," explained Mr. Boyle.
"Grapevine(TM) is already compatible with those cards. Similarly, the advent of chip cards that include the owner's personal information was a future development Elcotel built into the terminal's capabilities now. As e-commerce continues to expand, there's no limit to what Grapevine(TM) and e-Prism(TM) can deliver to our customers and the public."
Elcotel, Inc., based in Sarasota, Florida, is a leader in providing public access telecommunications networks and management services for both domestic and international wireline and wireless communication networks. Visit Elcotel's corporate website at http://www.elcotel.com.
Statements contained in this release may contain forward-looking
information regarding the Company's plans, projections, or future performance,
which involve certain risks and uncertainties that could cause the Company's
actual results to differ materially from those expected by the Company. These
risks and uncertainties include the risk of adverse regulatory action
affecting the Company and the Company's customers, risk of competition, risk
of obsolescence of the Company's products, and other uncertainties detailed in
the Company's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
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