On this day in economic and business history…
Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) began its existence — as a brand, if not a company — on April 3, 2000, when Bell Atlantic announced the name (and formalized the agreement) of its wireless partnership with Britain’s Vodafone Group Plc (ADR) (NASDAQ:VOD) . Simultaneously, the regional Baby Bell confirmed its adoption of the Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) brand name for the combined company to be created from its pending merger with GTE, which at one time had been the largest independent American telecom during the Bell System era.
“Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ)” as brand was created as a portmanteau of “veritas,” Latin for truth, and “horizon,” with the new corporate identity meant to convey integrity and the possibilities of the future. Analysts weren’t quite so enamored of the morphological mash-up, though. Wireless industry analyst Tole Hart of Dataquest told CNET: “The brand name Bell Atlantic isn’t going to sell well elsewhere. But I think they could have come up with a better name.” Elliott Hamilton of Strategis Group took the long view, saying: “In the short term it might seem silly. But in the long term, ten years from now, everybody will just know Verizon. … It’s just like anything else; you have to get used to it.”
The Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) Wireless brand was set to leapfrog all mobile-carrier competition on the market in 2000, with an estimated 23 million subscribers (following the Bell Atlantic and GTE merger), nearly double the subscribers of second-place AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) Wireless. When Verizon itself assembled later that year, it quickly became one of the nation’s leading companies — which led, four years later, to its inclusion on the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEXDJX:.DJI), as it replaced longtime component AT&T. The merger also gave Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) majority control over its wireless joint venture, which initially included GTE’s cellular operations as well.
In recent years AT&T has considerably narrowed the subscriber gap, and it boasted 99 million wireless subscribers to Verizon’s 106 million subscribers just more than decade after Verizon Wireless began operating. However, thanks to further telecom consolidation, AT&T’s revenue eventually surpassed Verizon’s by the end of the decade: The original Ma Bell reported $125 billion in revenue to Verizon’s $107 billion at the end of 2010.
The call that started it all
Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) Wireless would never have come into existence without developments made at Motorola Solutions Inc (NYSE:MSI) in the 1960s and 1970s, which culminated in the world’s first cellphone call on April 3, 1973. That day, 44 year-old Motorola executive Martin Cooper stepped out onto the streets of New York City with a bulky, brick-like cellular-phone prototype.