HARRIS TEETER TO SHIFT TO SATELLITE NETWORK

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Harris Teeter here will switch to a satellite communications network at 90 of its stores within the next two years."Our primary use will be debit card processing," which will represent a new payment option for our customers, said Ed Cook, a spokesman for the chain. "Further down the road we'll use it for real-time uses, like electronic mail, decision support, some things like that."Cook

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Harris Teeter here will switch to a satellite communications network at 90 of its stores within the next two years.

"Our primary use will be debit card processing," which will represent a new payment option for our customers, said Ed Cook, a spokesman for the chain. "Further down the road we'll use it for real-time uses, like electronic mail, decision support, some things like that."

Cook said the 90-store rollout would occur over the next two years. But a source familiar with the arrangement said the chain might move even more quickly. "Ninety locations doesn't take a whole lot of time to roll out," the source said.

Cook said real-time communications like electronic mail are important to Harris Teeter. The current mail system, he said, is "cumbersome."

"We have a store mail system, where we send a lot of paper in a bag, a mail bag to stores via our produce deliveries," he explained. The company's perishables warehouse is located near the corporate headquarters, enabling daily delivery of the information, "but we'd like to make it better."

The system, including the VSATs, or very small aperture terminals that are about the size of a videocassette recorder, is from Scientific-Atlanta, Atlanta.

Harris Teeter, which operates 142 supermarkets in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia, would not comment on its satellite communications plans for the 52 stores not included in the rollout. The company also declined to comment on any other satellite-linked applications it might explore in the future.