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AirTouch Communications, Inc.
Type Defunct
Founded 1994
Headquarters One California
Financial District, San Francisco, California, USA
Industry Cellular Communications
Products Cellular Telephone Service, Paging

AirTouch Communications was a U.S.-based wireless service provider that was created when PacTel Cellular was spun off from Pacific Telesis on April 1, 1994, forming both AirTouch Cellular and AirTouch Paging from "PacTel Cellular" and "PacTel Paging". Its headquarters were in One California in the Financial District, San Francisco, California.[1]

On June 30, 1999, AirTouch Communications merged with UK-based Vodafone Group Plc, and the new company was called Vodafone AirTouch Plc. In September 1999, Vodafone AirTouch announced a $70-billion joint venture with Bell Atlantic Corp. to be called Verizon Wireless, which would be composed of the two companies' U.S. wireless assets: Bell Atlantic Mobile, AirTouch Cellular, PrimeCo Communications, and AirTouch Paging. This wireless joint venture received regulatory approval in six months, and began operations as Verizon Wireless on April 4, 2000. On June 30, 2000, the addition of GTE Wireless' assets, in connection with the merger of Bell Atlantic and GTE to form Verizon Communications, made Verizon Wireless the nation's largest wireless communications provider (until Cingular's acquisition of AT&T Wireless in 2004, creating what is now AT&T Mobility). For the joint venture, Verizon Communications owns 55% and UK-based Vodafone Group (formerly Vodafone AirTouch) owns 45%.

US West started its own wireless company in the early 1980s and branded it as US West New Vector—one of the first providers of personal wireless services at the time. However, due to federal regulations in place, they were not allowed to combine the sales of cellular and paging service with their wireline telephone service. Eventually through growth and a series of acquisitions, US West Cellular (formerly US West New Vector) and AirTouch Communications had both grown large in size and range. It was determined that both companies should merge. Due to regulatory limitations, certain overlapping areas of coverage had to be re-spun off, traded, or sold to other wireless providers. Much of this went to GTE Wireless, which was added to Verizon Wireless on June 30, 2000. In some areas, the US West Cellular name was kept in place, giving the false appearance that the two were separate companies. However, in 1996, US West Cellular ceased to exist and all accounts were converted to AirTouch by the end of 1997. In 1999 the former US West Cellular began relocated portions of its operations to two of the AirTouch cities of operation, Walnut Creek and San Francisco, California, from the Eastgate area of Bellevue, Washington. It was not until after deregulation that US West Communications formed another wireless company, simply called US West Wireless, which was absorbed by Qwest Communications when it took over US West. Qwest Wireless is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) that operates on Verizon Wireless's CDMA network.

Verizon Wireless still maintains a call center in some of the buildings that used to house AirTouch Cellular's call center and administrative offices.

Merger highlights

U S WEST NewVector Group logo
  • AirTouch Communications was formed when Pacific Telesis spun off PacTel Cellular in 1994.[2]
  • In July 1994, AirTouch Communications and US West formed a joint venture to eventually merge their cellular operations.
  • In May 1996, US West New Vector Group rebranded US West Cellular as AirTouch Cellular.[3]
  • In April 1997, AirTouch tried to buy US West New Vector but missed the Morris Trust filing deadline by 1 day.[4]
  • In Feb. 1998, AirTouch Communications bought US West New Vector from US West Media for $5.7 billion. This made AirTouch the second largest wireless company in the US.[5]
  • In January 1999, Vodafone bid $62 billion for AirTouch.[6]
  • In June 1999, Vodafone Group Plc merged with AirTouch Communications, creating Vodafone Airtouch Plc.
  • In September 1999, Bell Atlantic and Vodafone Airtouch agreed to merge their U.S. wireless operations (Bell Atlantic Mobile, AirTouch Cellular, PrimeCo Communications, and AirTouch Paging) to form Verizon Wireless.[7]
  • In April 2000, Verizon Wireless began operations—the creation of the Verizon Wireless brand marked the end of the AirTouch brand.

Notes and References

  1. ^ "Contact Information." AirTouch. Retrieved on January 10, 2010.
  2. ^ Vodafone
  3. ^
  4. ^ Federal tax legislation could force renegotiation of AirTouch/U S West deal | Mobile Phone News | Find Articles at BNET
  5. ^ It's getting final: AirTouch to acquire U S West wireless properties | Mobile Phone News | Find Articles at BNET
  6. ^ iWon
  7. ^

External links

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