The name AT&T is familiar to most Americans as one of the country's most time-honored household brands. During its history of over 125 years, AT&T has had the honor of being the largest phone company, the largest cable television operator and one of America's leading employers peaking at over one million workers.
Before 2005, AT&T was also among America's leading wireless brands for consumers, operating as an independent business called AT&T Wireless. AT&T Wireless had spun off as a separate business from the company AT&T that is known for local and long distance phone service.
In 2004, AT&T Wireless merged with cell phone giant Cingular Wireless. The brand AT&T Wireless was retired and the name changed to Cingular. As a result, in 2005 and 2006, the name AT&T was not actively used to market cell phones to consumers.
Separately, in 2005, AT&T Wireless’ former parent company AT&T entered into a merger with regional telecommunications giant SBC, and this new pairing took on the AT&T name. Since SBC had been 50% owner of Cingular (the other 50% was owned by Bell South), the newly-named AT&T was now co-owner of Cingular Wireless. The following year, in 2006, AT&T announced a merger with Bell South. This merger creates the largest telecommunications company in the world and brought 100% ownership of Cingular Wireless under AT&T. Soon after, AT&T announced that the Cingular brand would be retired, and the AT&T cell phone brand would return to the wireless marketplace.
Here is a snapshot of the recent history of mergers and acquisitions involving AT&T and Cingular Wireless and leading us to today:
2001: A joint venture between Bell South and Southwestern Bell Corporation (SBC) creates Cingular Wireless.
2001: Parent company AT&T completes the spinoff of AT&T Wireless as a separate and independent tracking stock.
2004: Cingular Wireless purchases AT&T Wireless. The AT&T Wireless brand is removed from the consumer market as the merged companies continue business under the Cingular Wireless name alone.
2005: SBC purchases AT&T and changes the name of the merged company to AT&T, Inc. (NYSE: T). A new AT&T logo is introduced.
2006: AT&T merges with Bellsouth. This merger results in AT&T's 100% ownership of Cingular Wireless.
2007: The Cingular Wireless brand is retired, and Cingular’s cell phone business takes on the name AT&T.
The New AT&T
The mergers and acquisitions resulting in the revival of the AT&T wireless brand have created an enterprise that blends the strengths of several cutting-edge telecommunication companies.
With the 2005 merger with AT&T, SBC gained AT&T's corporate-focused telecommunications business, which serves most of the world's Fortune 1000 companies. AT&T also gave SBC one of the largest existing IP (Internet Protocol) networks. The merger also facilitates the offering of voice over IP services and saves the new enterprise millions of dollars in development by using AT&T's CallVantage technology.
The decision to drop the SBC name in favor of AT&T is believed to have strengthened the new company's branding globally, since the name AT&T carries a historically powerful association with innovation and excellence in telecommunications, both within and beyond the boundaries of SBC territory.
And as a result of the 2006 merger with Bellsouth, the new AT&T now provides local service in a total of 22 states, making AT&T America's largest phone company.
Lastly, and most importantly for cell phone customers, the new AT&T began selling cell phone services under its own name (AT&T) rather than under the Cingular Wireless brand in late Spring 2007. This brand-switch took effect after a brief transitional period in which a combined AT&T/Cingular brand helped make the transition smoother as far as customer brand-recognition.
What All This Means to Cingular Cell Phone Customers
In the course of the year 2007, cell phone customers have seen the brand AT&T replace Cingular Wireless:
In the first phase, cell phones and cell phone services were marketed with the message “Cingular Wireless is the New AT&T.” This helped AT&T’s wireless customers get accustomed to the upcoming change and learn to identify the two brands as one.
In the second phase, the Cingular name was dropped, leaving the new AT&T name as the only brand for AT&T’s cell phones and wireless services.
So if you were a Cingular Wireless customer, you should already be seeing the AT&T brand instead of the Cingular brand. This will not affect your service in any way, except in providing you with an enhanced menu of wireless options and choices, including a lot of exciting new AT&T phones and plans.
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