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Bell Atlantic, Crown Castle in joint, wireless venture Existing towers will be used


BEDMINSTER, N.J. -- Bell Atlantic Corp., the largest U.S. local phone company, and Crown Castle International Corp. said yesterday that they are forming a $650 million joint venture that will own, operate and lease space on Bell Atlantic's wireless phone transmission towers.

Bell Atlantic Mobile, the company's wireless unit, will contribute its 1,400 towers to the venture. Crown Castle will own 62.3 percent of the venture and Bell Atlan- tic Mobile will own the rest. Crown Castle will also have the option to increase its stake four years later.

Shares of Crown Castle rose $2.4375, or 16 percent, to $17.625. Bell Atlantic fell $1.875, to $56.125.

Wireless communication companies say it is difficult to get state and local approval to put up towers, and buying or leasing land for them is expensive. The venture hopes to boost revenue by leasing space, or allowing other carriers to put their equipment on Bell Atlantic's towers.

Bell Atlantic Mobile owns and operates the largest wireless network in the Eastern United States, covering 116,000 square miles. Crown Castle owns and manages about 1,200 towers.

The venture plans to raise $180 million by selling debt, with Bell Atlantic receiving the proceeds. Bell Atlantic Mobile wants to speed up construction of towers and capitalize on its efforts over the last few years, to build and expand its wireless phone network.

Pub Date: 12/10/98

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