Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ) is one of the nation's largest communications companies, providing landline, wireless, and fiber-optic voice, video, and Internet service. Based in New York City, Verizon is led by Chairman and CEO Ivan Seidenberg (who got his start in the business as a telephone lineman).
Where did Verizon come from? Well, Fools, when two enormous telecom companies love each other very, very much...
Bell Atlantic was one of the 22 "Baby Bells" spawned in the 1984 breakup of AT&T. By 1998, it had already merged with NYNEX, another of the Baby Bells, and it was hungry for more. Meanwhile, GTE was a leading conglomerate of rural and independent telephone networks, providing phone service in far-flung parts of the U.S., or around the fringes of major locales. On June 27, 1998, the two companies agreed to merge.
After nearly two years of the necessary regulatory hoop-jumping, Verizon Communications was officially formed on June 30, 2000. Appropriately enough for a company built by smushing together two large businesses, the name "Verizon" is a combination of "veritas," the Latin word for "truth," and "horizon." Until rival SBC Communications surpassed it by merging with and taking the identity of AT&T in 2005, Verizon was the nation's biggest telecom.
In 2005, Verizon purchased troubled MCI, strengthening its own network by incorporating the former WorldCom's long-distance and business assets.
Verizon operates primarily in 10 Eastern Seaboard states and the District of Columbia, Bell Atlantic's old stomping grounds. The GTE network gives it a smaller foothold in 15 more states in the continental U.S.A.
In 2004, Verizon began to upgrade its network from traditional copper wire to faster fiber-optic cables. Through its FiOS network, which is still expanding throughout Verizon's operating regions, the company offers high-speed Internet, digital voice, and television services in increasing competition with Comcast and other cable companies.
Bell Atlantic and Vodafone had already launched a joint wireless effort under the Verizon brand in April of 2000, introducing America to the nameless, bespectacled pitchman who roams the country assuring clear cell phone reception. GTE's wireless operations were folded into Verizon Wireless when the merger became final; Verizon now owns 55% of the wireless company that bears its name. Verizon is currently the nation's second-largest wirelss network, with 70.8 million subscribers. An impending merger with Alltel Wireless, announced in June 2008, will help Verizon Wireless leapfrog ahead of AT&T's wireless operations to become the nation's biggest such network.