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Wireless Merger Creates Largest Customer Base

Bell Atlantic and Vodafone AirTouch have agreed to combine their wireless businesses and create a coast-to-coast communications venture with the nation’s biggest customer base.

The venture, which will be owned 55% by Bell Atlantic and 45% by Vodafone, will hold the assets of AirTouch Cellular, AirTouch Paging, Bell Atlantic Mobile and PrimeCo Personal Communications.

With the inclusion of GTE’s wireless assets following its scheduled merger with Bell Atlantic, the venture will have 20 million cellular customers and 3.5 million pager subscribers and be valued at about $70 billion.

Pending regulatory approvals, the companies said they expect to form the venture within the next 12 months, and it will be managed by Bell Atlantic.

A seven-member board will include Bell Atlantic CEO Ivan Seidenberg, Vodafone AirTouch CEO Chris Gent and GTE CEO Charles Lee. The partners will each get to name two more directors.