In summer 2000, Bell Atlantic Mobile
, GTE Wireless
merged to form only America's second truly nationwide cellular phone
carrier (after Sprint
). As this coincided with the Bell Atlantic
to form Verizon
, the merged company adopted the name Verizon Wireless
. The resulting company was owned 55% by Verizon
and 45% by Vodafone Airtouch LLC
, the American
subsidiary of the international Vodafone
mobile telephone conglomerate
and former owner/operator of Airtouch
. The stock is now traded publicly on the New York Stock Exchange
under the symbol VZW
Verizon Wireless's digital system uses CDMA technology. They also still operate a few leftover analog systems, particularly in mountainous and/or rural regions where a digital upgrade would require multiple difficult site installations to cover the same ground that one higher-powered analog site can handle.
As with most U.S. cellular mergers, not all customers were passed directly from the previous company to the new, bigger company. The Federal Communications Commission regulates cellular carriers' licenses to the radio spectrum over which calls are actually made; in order to encourage competition, it enforces limits on the bandwidth that can be allocated to any individual carrier. In many markets, these carriers were in competition, and one or the other had reached its allocation limit. So the frequency allocations and the associated customers were sold off to competitors. In eastern Virginia, for example, GTE Mobilnet customers stayed with the new VZW, while PrimeCo customers were handed off to what VZW probably viewed as the least threatening competitor, a local company called nTelos. Customers on non-CDMA digital systems had to be sold off or converted over to CDMA.
A controversy currently (fall 2002) exists between Verizon Wireless and Internet cellular followers, who have protested and made public unpublicized cuts in VZW's America's Choice service plan. According to these individuals, certain coverage areas have either been completely dropped from the plan or changed to roaming (and therefore chargeable by the minute) -- and the company made no effort to inform customers of this. VZW then threatened several Internet sites that attempted to prove this by posting PRL data from their phones and analyzing the changes.
Source for PRL story: http://www.sewireless.info/