Just a few minor refinements to Mike Z's and John's largely correct
clarifications of how Cingular came to be and then became just plain
In the beginning Bell created AT&T (with the assistance of a gentleman
called Vail). AT&T was not just a phone company, it was _the_ phone
company. It called itself the Bell System, because it integrated local
and long-distance service with telephone equipment (or CPE), thereby
inventing both "one-stop shopping" and the "triple play."
AT&T was a monopoly, but a legal monopoly. It was regulated by
puppets in every state but earned a nice, comfortable profit. One
could easily identify an AT&T subsidiary, because they all had a
region or state in their name, along with "Bell," "Telephone &
Telegraph," or something like that in their corporate names.
Many years after dividing night from day and land from earth, God
decided to divide CPE and long-distance from local telephone service.
He took the form of Judge Harold Greene, who, effective 1/1/84, smote
the old AT&T. He divided the dead-end local service from the vibrant
and competitive long-distance and CPE part of AT&T. Henceforth, AT&T
would be LD and CPE only (CPE was later spun off to Lucent, which spun
itself off to Alcatel). The 22 or so operating companies conducting
AT&T's local operations were reorganized into seven "Baby Bells" or
"Bell Operating Companies. The seven Baby Bells set up separate
subsidiaries and through them acquired the cellular licenses AT&T
obtained in the early '80s and continued acquiring more. Among these
Baby Bell separate subsidiaries were BellSouth Mobility Inc (no common
and no period) and Southwestern Bell Mobile Servies, Inc.
The next fifteen years were years of flux. In the 1980s and 1990s,
Craig McCaw, whose daddy owned a lot of cable systems, acquired a great
number of cellular licenses. He decided to sell, and AT&T was the high
bidder. The former McCaw Cellular licenses thus became owned by AT&T
Wireless Services, Inc. (ATTWS), a wholly owned subsidiary of AT&T. As
other have pointed out, the executives of AT&T, faced with ownership of
a competitive, profit-generating subsidiary, threw up their hands and
spun it off in order to buy stodgy, reliable, money-losing cable
television monopolies. Meanwhile, the FCC auctioned off a bunch of new
"PCS" spectrum, and some of it it was bought up by the Baby Bells and
ATTWS. Also during this period, the number of Baby Bell was reduced to
four through mergers -- SBC, BellSouth, Verizon, and Qwest.
Cingular was created as a joint venture of SBC and Bellsouth that, in
2000, acquired the mobile properties of SBC (Southwestern Bell Mobile
Systems, Inc., and other companies; the SBC mobile properties included
many acquired through mergers with Ameritech, PacTel, and others) and
BellSouth. Cingular was owned 60/40 by SBC and BellSouth, but control
was shared 50/50.
Then Cingular acquired ATTWS, which at that point used the AT&T name but
was no longer owned by AT&T. A change in name for the ATTWS properties
was necessary because ATTWS's licensing agreement with AT&T for use of
the name was only for a limited time. Cingular sought to integrate
these systems with its own into a single network.
Then SBC acquired the shell of its long-separated parent AT&T and
decided to use the parent's name, AT&T, for the resulting company. As a
result, Cingular became owned by AT&T and BellSouth at about the same
time as the AT&T name was phased out for the former ATTWS properties.
At the end of 2006, AT&T (i.e., SBC, after the renaming) and BellSouth
merged. One of the key pieces of the merger was Cingular, which would
now be wholly owned by the new AT&T. Cingular's profitable wireless
operations were one of the factors driving the merger. The resulting
company is AT&T, Inc. Its logo is "at&t", but the corporate name and
the prhase used in the company's official correspondence is AT&T
Michael D. Sullivan
Bethesda, MD (USA)
(To reply, change example.invalid to com in the address.)