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Playing the telco name game

Bell Atlantic and GTE executives plan to rename their newly merged company--the first recognition that a telco's name no longer reflects its service territory.

What's in a name? Not much when it comes to the telcos, which are caught up in the "urge to merge."

When AT&T was split up more than a decade ago, the seven Baby Bells were named after the regions they served: Bell Atlantic in the Atlantic states, for example. In the Southwest, SBC became the parent company for Southwestern Bell.

Now that's changing. Thanks to deregulation and new technologies, the seven Baby Bells are consolidating. SBC has gobbled up Pacific Bell; Bell Atlantic and NYNEX have merged; SBC is proposing to buy Ameritech; and now Bell Atlantic and GTE are merging.

Realizing that its territory now expands beyond the Atlantic states, Bell Atlantic and GTE executives said today they plan to rename the newly merged company--the first recognition that a telco's name no longer reflects its service territory.

"In terms of the name for the company, we have not selected a new name...[but] we will come up with a new name prior to the closing of the transaction," said Charles Lee, GTE's chairman and CEO. "Bell Atlantic does not seem right, nor does GTE.

SBC also is expanding outside of the southwest, with PacBell in the West and plans to buy Ameritech in the Midwest. So far, at least, SBC has not announced plans for any name change.

The naming problem is not limited to telcos. The airline industry, deregulated 20 years ago, includes carriers such as Southwest, although that airline's destinations now include cities in the Northwest, Midwest, and Northeast.