"The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday gave final approval to two huge wireless mergers, setting the stage for aggressive new nationwide competition in ''one-rate'' mobile service.
"The FCC approved the creation of a joint venture for the wireless operations of Bell Atlantic Corp. (BEL.N) and Vodafone AirTouch Plc at the same time that it approved VoiceStream Wireless Corp's (VSTR.O) purchase of Aerial Communications (AERL.O).
"An FCC official said the approvals by the agency's wireless telecommunications and international bureaus remove the last barriers to the mergers, permitting them to take place at any time.
"``We will have an announcement very soon,'' said a Bell Atlantic spokesman. ``Stay tuned.''
"People close to the company said the merger will close early next week and will be announced at a news conference along with the company's new name and aggressive new pricing for coast-to-coast one-rate service.
"That will initiate new competition for single-rate national wireless offering by AT&T (T.N) and Sprint PCS Group (PCS.N).
"... The VoiceStream acquisition puts the finishing touches on a three-way merger, approved by shareholders in February, that brings together the firm with Aerial and Omnipoint, which all operate using the GSM cellular system.
"The FCC noted that GSM is the standard for 133 countries and the merger ``will further enable international roaming'' for customers of the company.
"The VoiceStream GSM system will cover more than 200 million people in the United States. The FCC said it will ``facilitate creation of a seamless national network capable of competing with other established nationwide competitors.''