AT&T Wireless (US)


AT&T Wireless was the original mobile telecoms subsidiary of the old AT&T company, existing for ten years from 1994 until 2004, when it was acquired by rival Cingular. That group itself adopted the AT&T name three years later. Although they are to some extent one and the same business, "new" AT&T relaunched its wireless services under the name AT&T Mobility to avoid any confusion.

AT&T's first mobile business was formed in 1994 after the telecoms giant acquired McCaw Cellular Communications. Struggling with problems in other parts of its business, AT&T issued a tracking stock in the AT&T Wireless division in 2000 and it was formally spun off as an entirely separate company a year later in what was then the biggest IPO in US history. In early 2001 NTT DoCoMo of Japan became the company's biggest shareholder, paying AT&T almost $10bn for a 16% stake prior to the full spin-off. Later that year, AT&T Wireless took control of former affiliate TeleCorp PCS, extending its footprint to nearly 75% of the US population, while reaching the rest through other affiliates and partnerships, as well as roaming arrangements. 

However in the mean time, AT&T Wireless's leading position was steadily eroded by fast-expanding Verizon and Cingular. As a result, the group came to be considered a likely takeover target. Preliminary merger discussions took place with Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile mid-2002, though these subsequently fizzled out. Talks started with Cingular in early 2004, and when speculation mounted that a full-scale bidding war could ensue between Cingular, NTT and other potential buyers, AT&T Wireless officially put itself up for sale. Vodafone entered the bidding with an offer of $35bn, sufficient to persuade NTT DoCoMo to declare it would not make a rival bid. Instead the prize was secured by Cingular, which offered an even more impressive $41bn. 

Prior to completion of the Cingular takeover, AT&T Wireless sold the 34% stake it held in Canadian mobile operator Rogers AT&T Wireless back to Rogers Communications, as well as its 49% holding in Eurotel Bratislava to Slovak Telecom. The Cingular deal was completed in October 2004, creating the country's new #1 mobile operator with what was then a total of 46m customers and annual revenues in excess of $32bn. The AT&T Wireless brandname - which was licensed from former parent AT&T - was phased out during the first half of 2005, and all AT&T Wireless customers were transferred to Cingular's GSM network. Following Cingular's subsequent takeover of what was left of the old AT&T, the wireless service was relaunched as AT&T Mobility.

Last full revision 18th July 2016


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