SBC Communications

(SBC)

and

Bell Atlantic

(BEL)

both reported strong first-quarter results Tuesday, reflecting a surge in demand for data and wireless services.

SBC, the largest U.S. local phone carrier and biggest U.S. holder of European telecommunications assets, said first-quarter operating profits jumped 12% to $1.9 billion, or 56 cents a diluted share, vs. $1.7 billion, or 49 cents a share, a year ago. That breezed past Wall Street expectations of 52 cents a share, according to

First Call/Thomson Financial

.

Bell Atlantic said first-quarter operating profit rose 8% to $1.3 billion, or 80 cents a diluted share, vs. $1.2 billion, or 73 cents a share, last year, meeting Wall Street expectations.

Both companies said their profits were helped by strong demand for data services, including widely popular digital subscriber lines that connect customers to the Internet, and explosive growth for wireless phones and communications services.

San Antonio, Texas-based SBC said its first-quarter domestic wireless revenue grew 30% to $1.5 billion, as 338,000 new subscribers signed up for service. New York-based Bell Atlantic, through its flagship wireless service and several joint ventures, signed up 727,000 wireless customers, pushing wireless revenue up 32% to $1.7 billion.

Bell Atlantic and London-based

Vodafone AirTouch

recently combined their U.S. wireless operations to create the world's leading wireless carrier. The venture, called

Verizon Wireless

, is to be spun off in an initial public offering later this year.

The companies also reported sharp growth in data services. SBC, which is investing $6 billion in a data services initiative called

Project Pronto

, said its first-quarter data revenues jumped 40.8% to $1.6 billion, driven largely by business demand for Internet connectivity. SBC's total DSL lines nearly doubled to 301,000 vs. 169,000 at the same time last year.

Bell Atlantic's data-services revenue rose 31.8% to $892 million as the company's number of DSL subscribers roughly doubled vs. first-quarter 1999 to 60,000. The company also became the first Baby Bell to provide long-distance service, and added 428,000 residential long-distance customers.

Bell Atlantic also said that sales of premium local services, such as voice mail, caller ID, and call waiting, increased 40.7% during the first quarter.

Total revenue for Bell Atlantic rose 7.1% to $8.5 billion vs. $8.0 billion in first-quarter 1999. About 84% of that growth came from data services. Excluding one-time charges, Bell Atlantic's profits fell 34% to $731 million, or 46 cents a share, compared to $1.1 billion, or 72 cents a share, a year ago.

Bell Atlantic has agreed to buy Irving, Texas-based phone carrier

GTE

(GTE) - Get Report

in a $53 billion deal expected to close by the end of the second quarter pending

Federal Communications Commission

approval. The combined

company , which will surpass SBC as the largest U.S. local carrier, will be named

Verizon

.

SBC's total operating revenue for the first quarter rose 7% to $12.6 billion vs. $11.6 billion for the same period last year. SBC's international revenue, which reflects joint venture stakes in 22 foreign countries, rose 56% to $1.9 billion. Excluding one-time items, the company's profits fell 10% to $1.8 billion, or 53 cents a share, vs. $2.0 billion, or 51 cents a share, a year ago.

SBC recently completed a deal with Atlanta-based

BellSouth

(BLS)

to

combine their U.S. wireless telephone services to create the nation's second-largest wireless carrier.