Verizon started life as Bell Atlantic, one of the seven "Baby Bells" that was formed following the breakup of the Bell System by the Justice Department of the United States. Bell Atlantic started life in 1984, merging with another Baby Bell - NYNEX - then merging with telecommunications company GTE in 2000. The company rebranded itself Verizon in 2000 after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved the Bell Atlantic/GTE merger.
After becoming the largest local phone company in the United States, Verizon set its sights on the burgeoning cellular market. Verizon Wireless was the result, a collaboration between Verizon Communications and British telecommunications company Vodafone. Vodafone eventually sold its 45 percent stake back to Verizon in a deal valued at $130 billion.
Verizon's network has been built using Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) radio technology (similar to rival Sprint), unlike the more popular worldwide standard employed by rivals AT&T and T-Mobile, GSM.
Verizon claimed 103.3 million subscribers as of the first quarter of its fiscal 2014. Verizon was the first U.S. carrier to begin widespread migration to 4G LTE services, and says as of January that its 4G LTE service is accessible to 305 million U.S. customers in more than 500 markets — about 96 percent of the total U.S. population.
Rumor has it Verizon passed on the original iPhone and a partnership deal with Apple and Steve Jobs in 2007. Ultimately, that honor would go to Verizon's fiercest rival in the United States wireless market, AT&T. AT&T held an exclusive on the iPhone until January 2011 when Verizon became the second U.S. carrier to get the iPhone.
Gradually, over the last couple of years, Verizon's customers have complained of slower network speeds especially in congested urban areas. As a result, with near-ubiquitous nationwide coverage, Verizon's focus in 2014 has been to increase its network bandwidth.