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AT&T Wireless Services, Inc., formerly part of AT&T Corp., was a wireless telephone carrier in the United Statesmarker, based in Redmond, Washingtonmarker, and later traded on the New York Stock Exchangemarker under the stock symbol "AWE", as a separate entity from its former parent.

On October 26, 2004, AT&T Wireless was acquired by Cingular Wireless, a joint venture of SBC Communications and BellSouth, to form the largest wireless carrier in the United States at the time. On 2004-11-16, AT&T Wireless stores were rechristened under the Cingular banner. The legal entity "AT&T Wireless Services, Inc." was renamed "New Cingular Wireless Services, Inc."

In late 2005, SBC (the majority partner in Cingular) acquired the original AT&T, and rebranded as "the new AT&T". Cingular became wholly-owned by the new AT&T in December 2006 as a result of the new AT&T's acquisition of BellSouth. After the merger, Cingular was renamed AT&T Mobility in early 2007 and remained the largest wireless carrier until 2009 when Verizon acquired Alltel to retake its position as the number one carrier.


McCaw Cellular logo
AT&T Wireless began as McCaw Cellular, and was based in Redmondmarker, WAmarker, United Statesmarker. It was founded by Craig McCaw.

In 1994, AT&T purchased McCaw for $11.5 billion and kick-started their cellular division with 2 million subscribers. That year, Steven W. Hooper, a long time McCaw Cellular executive, was tapped by AT&T to be the CEO of the newly acquired division. Under his direction, AT&T Wireless grew to be the nation's largest cellular provider by the end of 1997, at which point Hooper and many of the remaining McCaw era executives departed. By 1999 and 2000 the cellular industry began to consolidate and Verizon Wireless and Cingular Wireless became the first and second largest national carriers.

The year 1999 also brought John D. Zeglis as chief executive in October, followed a few months later by Dan Hesse's departure, who had been head of the division since 1997. Over the next year and a half all six McCaw regional presidents left the declining company.

In April 2000, AT&T Wireless became a separately traded entity with the world's largest initial public offering at that time. Just over a year later in July 2001, AT&T Wireless became a separate company rather than a division of AT&T Corp.

In 2003, AT&T Wireless was granted several mobile licenses for Caribbean countries including Barbadosmarker, Grenadamarker, Saint Luciamarker, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadinesmarker. AT&T Wireless' decline climaxed in 2003 with the FCC mandating the allowance of porting numbers to other carriers. AT&T Wireless experienced a mass exodus of many customers who were fed up with years of degrading service and poor coverage. By the end of 2003, AT&T Wireless faced a public relations nightmare when a new system for adding subscribers and porting numbers in/out was implemented and botched. Realizing that it faced an impossible situation, AT&T Wireless Services, Inc began accepting bids in early 2004 to be acquired.

As of January 1, 2004, the largest single shareholder of AT&T Wireless was Japanmarker's NTT DoCoMo, which was one of the first to place a bid to buy the company.

In the middle of 2004 much of the Caribbean operations and Bermuda were agreed to be sold to Digicel Group.

Acquisition history

On February 13, 2004, AT&T Wireless accepted bids for acquisition of the wireless company. The two top bidders were Britishmarker carrier Vodafone and American competitor Cingular. Cingular was owned by two Baby Bells; 40% by BellSouth and 60% by SBC Communications, Inc. SBC would later acquire AT&T Corp. in 2006 and adopt the latter's name, becoming AT&T Inc. Vodafone owns 45% of Verizon Wireless and had it succeeded in the bid, their share of Verizon Wireless would then have been sold to parent company Verizon Communications. Cingular emerged victorious February 17 by agreeing to pay more than $41 billion, more than twice the company's recent trading value, to acquire AT&T Wireless. Some analysts have said that although Vodafone, the world's largest mobile operator, was unsuccessful in acquiring the company, it was nonetheless successful in forcing a competitor to overpay for the acquisition of AT&T Wireless.

The sale received US government approval and closed on October 26. The AT&T Wireless brand was retired by Cingular on April 26, 2005, six months after the close of the merger. This was per a pre spin-off agreement with AT&T Corp. that stated that if AT&T Wireless was to be bought by a competitor, the rights to the name AT&T Wireless and the use of the AT&T name in wireless phone service would revert back to AT&T Corp.

AT&T Wireless' prepaid services, Go Phone, was adopted by Cingular Wireless after the merger closed, and is still in use today by the current AT&T Mobility.


Rogers AT&T Wireless was a publicly traded partnership between Rogers and AT&T. It operated a mobile network in Canadamarker until Rogers bought out AT&T's stake in 2004 and took the company private. See Rogers Wireless.

SunCom Wireless was a brand name used by three separate companies: Telecorp PCS, Tritel PCS, and Triton PCS (based in Arlington, VA, Jackson, MS, and Berwyn, PA, respectively). All three used the same SunCom logo, but operated as completely independent companies, though all were affiliates of AT&T Wireless, which owned 23% of each company. Telecorp operated primarily in Wisconsin, Iowa, Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Puerto Rico. Tritel operated primarily in Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama, and Tennessee. Triton operated primarily in North and South Carolina and Virginia. In 2002, Telecorp and Tritel completed a merger, while Triton remained independent. In 2003, AT&T Wireless completed the acquisition of Telecorp/Tritel, and closed the Telecorp headquarters in Arlington, VA.

Cincinnati Bell Wireless started as a joint venture between Cincinnati Bell and AT&T Wireless, in which AT&T Wireless owned 20%. When AT&T Wireless was purchased by Cingular, control of the 20% passed to Cingular as well. On 2006-02-17, Cincinnati Bell took full control of Cincinnati Bell Wireless by purchasing Cingular's 20% ownership for $80 million.

AT&T Returns as AT&T Mobility LLC

The AT&T brand in wireless ended in 2004, but it would be brought back a few years later. On November 18, 2005, SBC Communications, Inc. completed a merger with AT&T Corp., and took on the name AT&T and created a new modern globe logo. After the merger, rumors surfaced of a revival of AT&T's brand in wireless via a rebranding of Cingular, however Cingular, Bellsouth, and the new AT&T maintained that the Cingular brand would remain for the time being.

Then, in an ironic turn of events, the new AT&T announced on March 5, 2006 that it would be acquiring BellSouth's telephone operations and its stake in Cingular Wireless. On December 29, 2006 the FCC gave its final approval to the AT&T and BellSouth merger. With both parent companies merged into one, Cingular Wireless officially became AT&T Mobility LLC in 2007. The rebranding phase was a gradual process but by mid-2007, the Cingular Wireless brand (not the company) was officially discontinued for the AT&T name.

Thus, AT&T as a wireless brand is alive and well, however, the old AT&T Wireless Services company remains defunct. Today, AT&T stores sell all AT&T products and services: Wireless, Landline, Internet, U-Verse, and more. AT&T currently markets all services under one brand, even though the wireless division is commonly referred to as "AT&T wireless" both internally and externally.


  1. PA Bulletin Doc. No. 06-1740
  2. [1]
  3. AT&T Press Release

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