Verizon: New Name in Wireless

FRAMINGHAM (04/05/2000) - Bell Atlantic Mobile and Vodafone AirTouch PLC have combined to launch Verizon Wireless, a separate joint venture offering cellular, paging and PCS services that will spend US$3 billion this year on network upgrades.

As part of its improvements, the company plans in June to test out a 144K-bit-per-second data service, a speed comparable to ISDN servicesIn addition, Verizon Wireless will roll out a nationwide, two-way service in which customers can send and receive short text messages via properly equipped cellular phones.

Via Verizon Wireless' code division multiple-access (CDMA) network, customers with Web-enabled digital wireless phones that have built-in wireless modems will be able to reach the Internet, send and receive e-mail, get stock quotes and set up customized Web pages.

Verizon Wireless also has a cellular digital packet data (CDPD) network that supports data speeds up to 19.2K bps and is delivered via laptops, handheld PDAs (personal digital assistants) and Window CE devices.

In addition, the company has started a flat-rate, nationwide calling plan for mobile phones that features no roaming charges. The plans are: 150 minutes for US$35; 400 minutes for $55; 600 minutes for $75; 1,000 minutes for $100; and 1,500 minutes for $150.

Later this year, when Bell Atlantic's merger with GTE is completed, GTE's U.S. wireless business will be added to Verizon's, making it the largest U.S. wireless company, Bell Atlantic claims.

Its geographic coverage of the 90 largest U.S. cities gives the service provider the potential to reach 232 million people, the company says. Verizon Wireless will have 24 million wireless customers and about four million paging customers.

Seeking to capitalize on the wireless assets, Verizon Wireless is already planning an initial public stock offering, according to Ivan Seidenberg, chairman and chief executive officer of Bell Atlantic.

The name Verizon, pronounced like horizon, will be adopted as the overall company name by Bell Atlantic and GTE after they merge. Giving the company a new name will help distinguish it in customers' minds, says Chris Gent, CEO of Vodafone AirTouch.

Bell Atlantic and Vodafone AirTouch have been combining their networks and businesses for the past six months. The combined company will save money through reduced roaming costs paid to other carriers and increased economies of scale in transport, billing, handset purchases and advertising.

After the close of the Bell Atlantic-GTE merger, the combined company will own 55 percent of Verizon Wireless, while Vodafone AirTouch will own the rest. The wireless venture's board has seven members, with four designated by Bell Atlantic and three by Vodafone AirTouch. Headquarters are in New York and Bedminster, New Jersey.

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