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AT&T Mobility LLC
Type Subsidiary of AT&T
Founded 2000
Headquarters United States Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Area served United States
Key people Ralph de la Vega, CEO
Peter A. Ritcher, CFO
Industry Wireless Services
Products HSDPA, HSUPA, UMTS, W-CDMA, EDGE, GPRS, GSM, Wireless Data Services (MEdia Net), Two way messaging, Push to Talk
Revenue US$49.335 billion (2008) [1]
Employees 69,876 (2008)
Parent AT&T
Website wireless.att.com

AT&T Mobility LLC is the wholly-owned wireless subsidiary of AT&T Inc.. It is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia,[2] AT&T Mobility currently serves over 85.1 million subscribers.[3] This makes it the second largest wireless telecommunications provider in the United States, based on number of subscribers behind Verizon Wireless. AT&T had been the largest before Verizon Wireless completed the acquisition of 32 of 56 markets of Alltel Wireless in early 2009. Total wireless revenues for 2008 were $49.335 billion, up $6.7 billion or 15.6 percent versus 2007 results. Additionally, AT&T Wireless is the largest wireless carrier by revenue.

Originally Cingular Wireless LLC, a joint venture between SBC Communications and BellSouth, the company acquired the old AT&T Wireless in 2004; SBC later acquired the original AT&T and re-branded as "The New AT&T". Cingular became wholly-owned by The New AT&T in December 2006 as a result of AT&T's acquisition of BellSouth.

In January 2007, Cingular confirmed it would rebrand itself under the AT&T moniker. Although the corporate name change occurred immediately, for regulatory and brand-awareness reasons both brands were used in the wireless unit's signage and advertising during a transition period.[4] The transition concluded in late June, just prior to the rollout of the Apple iPhone.

Among the services that AT&T aggressively promotes is its "Rollover" service, allowing customers to keep unused minutes from month to month on a twelve-month rolling cycle on its popular "Nation" nationwide plans. Beginning in July 2007, AT&T now allows its AT&T Unity plan users to have "Rollover", a service which was exclusive to the "Nation" plans. AT&T also launched video share in 2007, in which a mobile caller can stream live video from one phone to another over the 3G network with video share capable phones. This allows one mobile phone user to view another's camera through the mobile phone in real time. AT&T is expected to roll out a program on September 20, 2009, called the "A list," similar to the Alltel group of friends packages.[5] It is uncertain if the Unity customers will qualify.

A large number of AT&T Mobility employees are unionized, belonging to the Communications Workers of America. The CWA represented roughly 15,000 of the previous 20,000 formerly AT&T Wireless employees as of early 2006.[6] As of the end of 2007, the CWA website claims roughly 40,000 workers of AT&T Mobility are represented by the union.[7]

Contents

History

Cingular Wireless logo, 2000-2004

Cingular Wireless LLC was founded in 2000 as a joint venture of SBC Communications and BellSouth. The joint venture created the nation's second-largest carrier. Cingular grew out of a conglomeration of more than 100 companies [8], with 12 well-known regional companies with Bell roots. The 12 companies included:

SBC Wireless had previously operated in several northeast markets under the "Cellular One" brand, while BellSouth's wireless operations incorporated the former Houston Cellular.

Cingular's lineage can be traced back to Advanced Mobile Phone Service, which was a subsidiary of AT&T created in 1978 to provide cellular service nationwide. AMPS, Inc. was divided among the Regional Bell Operating Companies as part of the Bell System divestiture.

With the exception of Pacific Bell and BellSouth Mobility DCS, the digital network consisted of D-AMPS technology. The Pacific Bell and BellSouth Mobility DCS networks used GSM technology on the PCS frequency band (1900 MHz).

In October 2007, AT&T’s president and chief executive officer Stan Sigman announced his retirement. Ralph de la Vega, group president-Regional Telecom & Entertainment, was named as president and CEO, AT&T Mobility.[9]

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AT&T Wireless merger

In February 2004, after a bidding war with Britain's Vodafone Plc (45% owners of Verizon Wireless) Cingular announced that it would purchase its struggling competitor, AT&T Wireless Services, Inc., for $41 billion. This was more than twice the company's trading value.

AT&T Wireless logo
Cingular Wireless logo, 2004-2006

The merger was completed on October 26, 2004. The combined company had a customer base of 46 million people at the time, making Cingular the largest wireless provider in the United States. AT&T Wireless was then legally renamed New Cingular Wireless Services, Inc. [10] Shortly after, new commercials were shown with the "AT&T" transforming into the Cingular logo, and with the Cingular logo's text turned blue to acknowledge the change. First announced on June 22, 2005, Cingular Wireless announced the intention to divest its Caribbean and Bermuda operations and licenses which it acquired from the acquisition of AT&T Wireless, to Irish-owned and Jamaica-based Digicel Group under undisclosed financial terms.[11][12][13][14]

In 2006, one year following the deal, a high ranking source allegedly close to the sale pointed the Barbados Daily Nation Newspaper towards some SEC filings made by Cingular which were said to establish an idea of the approximate sale price of the deal. According to the SEC filings Cingular was paid around US$122 million, with much of that $122m cost to Digicel going towards the purchasing of the former AT&T Wireless assets in Barbados.[citation needed]

At the time of the merger, there were two networks: the historic AT&T Blue Network and the Cingular Orange Network. Both networks contained a mix of both TDMA and GSM facilities. Approximately 50,000 cell sites had to be melded together. From a technical standpoint, the "blue" and "orange" networks were considered different networks until integration was completed in 2005.[15] Enhanced Network Selection (ENS) was used to home cellular devices on either the "blue" or "orange" network during this process.

GSM facilities

In California, Nevada, Northern New Jersey and New York City, Cingular and T-Mobile USA maintained and shared a GSM-1900 network prior to the acquisition of AT&T Wireless, through a joint venture known as GSM Facilities. The network sharing agreement allowed Cingular to offer local service in northern New Jersey and New York City and T-Mobile to offer service in California and Nevada. On May 25, 2004, Cingular and T-Mobile USA announced their intention to dissolve the agreement contingent on Cingular's successful acquisition of AT&T Wireless, the Cingular network was transferred to T-Mobile, with Cingular continuing work on the GSM facilities at AT&T Wireless sites. [16]

Network coverage

An AT&T Mobility Device Support Center in Las Vegas, Nevada

As a result of its formation through mergers and acquisitions, as well as the rapid technological change in the wireless industry, AT&T Mobility operates networks within its United States footprint using different wireless communication standards. The core technology standard for the AT&T Mobility wireless network is called Global System for Mobile Communications, or GSM. Much of the AT&T Mobility network footprint now uses GSM-standard 3G wireless technologies (UMTS/HSPA) for simultaneous circuit switched voice and packet switched data communications. AT&T Mobility also offers Push To Talk (PTT) service using network technology from Kodiak Networks.

Cingular, the predecessor to AT&T Mobility, supported legacy D-AMPS/TDMA and analog wireless networks. In March 2006, Cingular announced that these networks would be shut down by February 2008. As of March 31, 2007 Cingular ended TDMA supported for GoPhone (pre-paid) customers. On February 18, 2008, AT&T Mobility officially ended service on their AMPS and TDMA network, except for in areas previously operated by Dobson Communications; the Dobson AMPS and TDMA network was shut down March 1, 2008.

Networks formerly operated by AT&T Mobility predecessors including Cingular also include various paging services and the Cingular Interactive division, which became Velocita Wireless. Velocita was later purchased by Sprint Nextel.[17]

The AT&T Mobility wireless data network began in 2002 as a Cingular initiative called "Project Genesis" that involved a GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) overlay of the entire wireless network. Project Genesis was completed by the end of 2004. Later, this network was upgraded to EDGE (Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution) across the GSM footprint.

In 2005, AT&T Mobility launched a high-speed network known as "BroadbandConnect," based on UMTS and High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA), to counter Verizon Wireless and Sprint's EV-DO networks. UMTS service was launched on December 6, 2005 in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, San Jose, San Diego, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Puerto Rico, Austin, Houston, Dallas, Detroit, Chicago, Boston, Baltimore and Washington D.C. and expanded to all major metropolitan markets by the end of 2006. As of early 2009, AT&T Mobility has completed its upgrade of the 3G network to HSUPA,[18] and will begin a new round of upgrades to the HSPA+ standard[19].

Future networks

AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile and most other mobile phone companies have chosen to build their new "4G" networks, with "Long Term Evolution" or LTE technology. This will allow for interoperability with most other mobile phone carriers, and allow for any unlocked LTE phone to be used on any company's network. Long Term Evolution LTE is the next step from 3G/WCDMA & HSPA for many already on the GSM technology curve, including AT&T. This new radio access technology will be optimized to deliver very fast data speeds of up to 100 Mbit/s downlink and 50 Mbit/s uplink (peak rates).

Designed to be backwards-compatible with GSM and HSPA, LTE incorporates Multiple In Multiple Out (MIMO) in combination with Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) in the downlink and Single Carrier FDMA in the uplink to provide high levels of spectral efficiency and end user data rates exceeding 100 Mbit/s, coupled with major improvements in capacity and reductions in latency. LTE will support channel bandwidths from 1.25 MHz to 20 MHz and both FDD and TDD operation. Verizon Wireless has announced intentions to bring an active LTE network online by the end of 2010. AT&T Mobility has not set an official date to begin building their LTE network.

"Cingular is now The New AT&T"

On November 20, 2005, Ed Whitacre, then CEO of the newly merged SBC/AT&T, announced plans to market Cingular's service under the AT&T brand. BellSouth spokesman Jeff Battcher countered that the terms of the joint venture allow either party to sell the service under another name, and that he believes they will be using the brand to market to business customers.[20] Cingular president Stan Sigman concurred with BellSouth's position, indicating that the Cingular brand would continue but be sold under the AT&T brand where offered in packages with other AT&T services, such as data and wireline telephony.

However, AT&T, Inc. announced on March 5, 2006[21] that it would acquire BellSouth. The acquisition was finalized on December 29, 2006 when the FCC gave its final approval. According to AT&T, the company began the rebranding of Cingular Wireless to "AT&T". [22]

On January 12, 2007 AT&T announced[23] a major rebranding transition campaign to transition Cingular to the new AT&T ("in February 2009 "new" was removed). The former Cingular stores, after being rebranded to AT&T, sold all AT&T products and services: wireless, landline, Internet, U-Verse, and more.

Cingular to AT&T Rebranding Transition:

  • On January 14, 2007 AT&T launched the transition of the Cingular brand to AT&T in television advertising and customer communications, by creating the "Cingular is now The New AT&T" logo.
  • On April 15, 2007, AT&T Mobility began to introduce new AT&T branded mobile phones and devices. The alpha tag (portion of phone's screen which displays the name of the network on which the phone is connected) on new phone activations also started reading "AT&T".
  • Around May 11, 2007, Cingular's name was replaced with "AT&T" in most advertisements.
  • On May 19, 2007, the AT&T logo replaced the Cingular logo on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series car it sponsors, owned by Richard Childress Racing and driven by Jeff Burton. (But it was soon removed; see below for details.)
  • On May 24, 2007, Palm, Inc. issued an update for Cingular-branded Treo 680 smartphones that, among other things, updates the phone's branding (startup and shutdown screens, wallpaper backgrounds) from Cingular to AT&T.[24]
  • As of May 31, 2007, the former cingular.com website redirects to wireless.att.com and no longer features any Cingular logos whatsoever.
  • In June 2007, customer service phone lines started being answered "Thank you for calling The New AT&T, about your wireless service." Additionally, all new SIM cards are branded with the AT&T logo.
  • By June 16, 2007, most of the phones on the company's network displayed AT&T as the carrier instead of Cingular.
  • By early 2009, AT&T had dropped "The New" part of its brand from all advertising and communications. Customer service phone lines are answered "Thank you for calling AT&T."
  • As of March 2010, www.cingular.com can still be used to access AT&T's website.

Acquisition of Dobson Communications

Transition banner used for Dobson/AT&T transition
Dobson Cellular Logo
Cellular One logo used by Dobson until acquisition by AT&T in November 2007

On November 15, 2007 AT&T completed its acquisition of Dobson Communications. Dobson marketed the Cellular One brand in rural and suburban locations in various areas of the United States, including Alaska. AT&T bought Dobson for $13 per share, as well as assuming the regional carrier's debt, which cost the nation's largest carrier about $5.1 billion total. The U.S. Justice Department had ordered AT&T Inc. to sell assets in five U.S. states to complete its $2.8 billion Dobson Communications Corp. takeover. The department ordered AT&T to divest certain cell-phone assets in Kentucky, Oklahoma, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Texas where AT&T and Dobson are most competitive. At the time, AT&T was the largest U.S. cell-phone provider, with more than 81 million subscribers in 50 states. Dobson's Cellular One was the ninth largest, with 1.7 million subscribers in 17 states. Dobson had been an AT&T roaming partner since 1990, and the acquisition is expected to bring growth to Dobson's current markets. The purchase allowed AT&T to operate in the more rural areas of the United States including Alaska & West Virginia. [25]

Acquisition of Centennial Communications

On November 7, 2008, AT&T announced its plans to acquire Centennial Wireless for $944 million. AT&T said that the acquisition would provide customers with better coverage in the Southeast, Midwest, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. The deal will also give AT&T more highly-coveted 850 MHz spectrum in the current Centennial Wireless coverage area. In addition, Centennial also provides switched voice and high-capacity data and Internet Protocol solutions for business customers in Puerto Rico. The transaction will give AT&T a wired network presence in Puerto Rico and will allow the company to better serve its multinational business customers with a presence in this U.S. territory. AT&T will gain Centennial's 893,000 subscribers after divestiture requirements. The deal was finalized on November 6, 2009[26].

Marketing

"Fewest dropped calls"

During the first quarter of 2006, Telephia reported that during an extensive nationwide test of major wireless carriers in 350 metropolitan markets around the country, Cingular dropped the fewest number of calls across the country. Cingular in turn began aggressively advertising the "Allover Network", citing Telephia as "the leading independent research company." Telephia's report was in stark contrast to the Consumers Union publication, Consumer Reports, based on a survey of 50,000 of its members in 18 cities, which criticized Cingular for static and dropped calls.[27] Furthermore, J.D. Power and Associates consistently ranked Cingular at or near the bottom of every geographical region in its 2006 Wireless Call Quality Study, which is based on a smaller survey of 23,000 wireless users.

Telephia, which tests wireless networks by making over 6 million calls per year in what it claims is the world's largest wireless network test program, initially refused to provide details on its study, and a spokesman for the company has said, according to the Boston Globe, that "Cingular shouldn't have even mentioned the company's name to a reporter."[28] The research company later stated that Cingular did indeed have a "statistically-significant lower dropped-call rate than the competition across some market/time period groupings", but that Telephia had "no knowledge of the specific methodology (markets, time periods or statistical thresholds) that Cingular used for its 'lowest dropped call' claim."[29] While AT&T has abandoned its verbal claim of "The Fewest Dropped Calls" in its commercials, it continues to show situations where two persons are speaking with each other on their phones, and one of the users' call drops. AT&T now states "We are still continuing to run ads that emphasize the importance of not dropping calls. That campaign is continuing.[30]

iPhone

On June 29, 2007 the Apple iPhone was introduced to the U.S. market, with AT&T being the exclusive carrier for the device within the United States.

Teething problems with AT&T's billing process emerged soon after the iPhone's release, as early adopters started receiving exceptionally detailed monthly telephone bills[31][32] with one of the most notable being the 300-page iPhone bill that was featured in an online video by blogger Justine Ezarik.[33][34]

Apple launched the iPhone 3G with AT&T on July 11, 2008. Although specific AT&T sales numbers are unavailable, Apple announced that over 1 million iPhone 3G devices were sold during the first three days – in contrast, according to Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO, “It took 74 days to sell the first one million original iPhones." [35] In August 2008, Best Buy announced that it would begin selling the iPhone 3G for use on the AT&T network.[36] In September 2008, AT&T announced that it would also sell the iPhone 3G in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.[37]

In the United States, the iPhone 3G is available for purchase with or without an AT&T contract, as most big box retailers, like Best Buy, will gladly sell it sans contract.[citation needed] AT&T is rumored to have heavily subsidized the iPhone's price to reach a broader spectrum of consumers.

On December 27, 2009 reports began to surface that AT&T had suspended online sales of the iPhone[38]. Spokesman Fletcher Cook said that the phone company periodically "modifies" its distribution channels, but had no further comment on the suspension of sales in the New York City area [39]. One AT&T employee incorrectly stated that, "New York wasn't ready for the iPhone," and that it lacked a sufficient number of cell towers to meet the heavy data demands imposed upon the network by iPhone users [40]. Sales of the popular iPhone resumed December 30th 2009 [41]. This incident has revived speculation that AT&T's wireless network is not up to the demands of the current generation of 3G smartphones [42][43]. The official AT&T statement is that a large amount of fraudulent activity caused the withdrawal of sales in the area.

Android-based smart phones

On February 18, 2010, AT&T announced that on March 7, 2010 it would introduce its first smart phone based on Google's Android operating system[44] – the Motorola Backflip.[45][46]

Phones offered

Calling plans and features

AT&T Mobility sells a variety of wireless services, including individual and plans for multiple users for the consumer.

Mobile to Mobile

All postpaid monthly rate plans (and most prepaid plans) include unlimited minutes for calls to or from any of AT&T's wireless subscribers. However, night & weekend minutes are deducted before unlimited M2M apply. As of November 2009, all postpaid voice plans (except for the "Nation 450" ) include unlimited night & weekend usage. If all N&W voice minutes are used, calls placed to non-AT&T wireless customers are deducted from the monthly package of anytime minutes . Any unused "anytime" minutes rollover to the next month, and expire after 12 months if not used.

AT&T Unity

AT&T Unity is a (free if the subscriber also has a landline with AT&T) service offered for users of landline and wireless AT&T service. It provides free unlimited calling to users of AT&T landline and wireless services. AT&T Unity customers also receive "Rollover" minutes and night and unlimited weekend minutes.

Mobile phone insurance

AT&T Mobility allows its customers to have mobile phone insurance in case of loss or accidental damage. Asurion is the administrator of the insurance program from AT&T. All phones are covered under the mobile phone insurance plan except the Apple iPhone and AT&T GoPhones. Customers are required to pay a deductible for each time they make an insurance claim, and are only allowed two claims per 12-month period; Asurion cancels coverage after a second claim.

Controversies

Cingular/AT&T NASCAR sponsorship controversy

Cingular Wireless began its sponsorship of the #31 Chevrolet, owned by Richard Childress Racing, in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series in 2002. Two years later, when Nextel Communications (now Sprint Nextel) purchased the naming rights to NASCAR's top division (rebranding the division as the Nextel Cup, and later the Sprint Cup), Cingular and Alltel, sponsor of the #12 Dodge (owned by Penske Racing and driven by Ryan Newman), were allowed to stay as sponsors under a grandfather clause. In early 2007, following its purchase by AT&T, Cingular began a re-branding effort to the AT&T Mobility brand. NASCAR quickly claimed that a clause in their contract with Sprint Nextel would not allow Cingular to change either the name or brand advertised on the #31 car.

After trying and failing to persuade NASCAR to approve the addition of the AT&T globe logo to the rear of the car, AT&T filed a lawsuit against NASCAR on March 16, 2007. On May 18, AT&T won a preliminary injunction in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in Atlanta and, following a failed emergency motion for a stay by NASCAR on May 19, re-branded the #31 car, now driven by Jeff Burton, in time for the Nextel All-Star Challenge that evening.[47][48] NASCAR was later granted an appeal to be heard on August 2.

On June 17, NASCAR announced it had filed a US$100 million dollar lawsuit against AT&T and would like AT&T and all other telecommunications companies out of the sport in 2008.[49]

On August 13, a ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit cleared the way for NASCAR to prevent AT&T Inc. from featuring its logo on the car. The 11th Circuit threw out a lower court's ruling that prevented NASCAR from stopping AT&T's plans. The appeals court remanded the case to the district court.[50]

At first practice for the Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 24, the #31 car was colored orange and black, but was bare; that is, no primary sponsor (but associate sponsors appeared) were on the car, similar to Formula One cars run in races where tobacco advertising was prohibited. The pit crew wore grey Richard Childress Racing shirts and Burton had a plain orange fire suit with associate sponsors. The car which carried a "subliminal advertising" scheme arrived in a black hauler with only the number 31 on the side. NASCAR officials said the car would not have made it through inspection with the AT&T logos.[51] During that weekend, AT&T claimed that two alternate paint schemes proposed by AT&T—one advertising its "go phone" and another with the old Cingular slogan "more bars in more places" that AT&T recently brought back—were rejected by NASCAR. The Go Phone scheme had been used in the past.[52] NASCAR later denied these claims.[53]

The car remained bare on race night on August 25, although ESPN aired the AT&T logo during shots from its in-car camera. Fox Sports had done so earlier in the dispute, with the words "Cingular is the new AT&T" on-screen during these shots.

On September 7, 2007, a settlement was reached where AT&T Mobility could remain on the #31 car until the end of 2008, but the associate sponsorship of the #29 Nationwide Series Holiday Inn Chevrolets not affected because they are in lower series. [54]

Richard Childress Racing announced the AT&T Mobility sponsorship will move to Grand American Road Racing Association sportscar racing in 2009 with the sponsorship of the Childress-Howard Motorsports #4 AT&T Pontiac Daytona Prototype sportscar. Childress is a part-owner of this team.

Competitors

AT&T is the second-largest mobile carrier in the United States, based on customer totals. AT&T's competitors are (from largest to smallest):

References

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  49. ^ http://www.nascar.com/2007/news/headlines/cup/06/17/nascar.sues.att.ap/index.html
  50. ^ Appeals court sides with NASCAR in AT&T dispute NASCAR - August 13, 2007.
  51. ^ As the logo turns: Burton's car missing AT&T again ESPN.
  52. ^ NASCAR rejects proposed paint schemes for No. 31
  53. ^ NASCAR losing patience with AT&T court battle ESPN.
  54. ^ http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/C/CAR_NASCAR_ATT?SITE=GENERIC&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2007-09-07-14-41-18

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