AT&T Mobility LLC or AT&T U.S. Mobility, also known as AT&T Wireless, marketed as simply AT&T, is a wholly owned subsidiary of AT&T Inc. that provides wireless services to 155.7 million subscribers in the United States including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. AT&T Mobility is the largest wireless telecommunications provider in the United States and Puerto Rico ahead of Verizon Wireless and the largest wireless telecommunications provider in North America when including AT&T Mexico.
Originally known as Cingular Wireless from 2000 to 2007, 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 adopted its name. Cingular became wholly owned by AT&T in December 2006 as a result of AT&T's acquisition of BellSouth.
In January 2007, Cingular confirmed it would re-brand itself under the AT&T name. Although the legal corporate name change occurred immediately, for both regulatory and brand-awareness reasons both brands were used in the company's signage and advertising during a transition period. The transition concluded in late June, just prior to the rollout of the Apple iPhone.
On March 20, 2011, AT&T Mobility announced its intention to acquire T-Mobile USA from Deutsche Telekom for $39 billion. If it had received government and regulatory approval, AT&T would have had more than 130 million subscribers. However, the U.S. Department of Justice, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and AT&T Mobility's competitors (such as Sprint Corporation) opposed the move on the grounds that it would substantially reduce competition in the cellular network market. In December 2011, in the face of both governmental and widespread consumer opposition, AT&T withdrew its offer to complete the merger.
|AT&T Mobility LLC|
|Cingular Wireless, LLC. (2000-2006)|
|Founded||April 2000 (as Cingular Wireless)|
December 29, 2006 (as AT&T Mobility)
Number of locations
|5,000 retail stores; 2,900 owned|
U.S. Virgin Islands
|David Christopher (President)|
|Revenue||$73 billion (2016)|
Number of employees
Customers can choose to have one of the AT&T's Mobile Share Flex or Unlimited plans. As of January 8, 2016 AT&T no longer offers 2 year contracts for subsidized smart phones to its consumer customers. Customers who currently have 2 year contracts are grandfathered, until they upgrade to a new device they will have to choose from AT&T's NEXT installment plans for smartphones. AT&T also reintroduced unlimited data plans for its customers who also have either AT&T U-verse or AT&T's DirecTV. Unlimited data plans may be speed throttled after 22 GB of data have been used. Later on the TV requirement was dropped for the Unlimited Plan followed by the introduction of the new Unlimited Plus and Choice plan series. The new Unlimited Plans also come with Entertainment perks for DirecTV, Uverse TV and DirecTV Now customers. With the inclusion of these new plans AT&T has also introduced a free roaming in Mexico for its postpaid customers on select Mobile Share Plans and free Canada and Mexico roaming on Unlimited Plans. On May 21, 2018 AT&T dropped its roaming restrictions on the Unlimited Plans allowing customer to roam in Canada and Mexico without limits.
AT&T also allows existing customers to stay on legacy right plans; however, reserves the right to terminate or require a plan change per its terms of service.
Within AT&T's 21-state landline footprint, other AT&T services are offered at the AT&T retail stores, including signing up for home phone, internet, and U-verse. AT&T stores outside of its footprint offer wireless services. All AT&T company-owned stores nationwide sell DirecTV.
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. As of the end of 2009, the CWA website claims roughly 40,000 workers of AT&T Mobility are represented by the union.
Cingular Wireless 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, with 12 well-known regional companies with Bell roots. The 12 companies included:
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 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 of AT&T Mobility.
In February 2004, after a bidding war with Britain's Vodafone Plc (at the time a part-owner of Verizon Wireless) Cingular announced that it would purchase its struggling competitor, AT&T Wireless Services, for $41 billion. This was more than twice the company's trading value.
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. 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. Some of the companies that comprised Cingular, such as BellSouth Mobility, ceased to exist when they were legally merged into the operating company subsidiary AT&T Wireless PCS, which was New Cingular Wireless PCS.
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.
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 $122 million, with much of that cost going towards the purchase of the former AT&T Wireless assets in Barbados by Digicel.
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. Enhanced Network Selection (ENS) was used to home cellular devices on either the "blue" or "orange" network during this process.
On November 21, 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. 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 announced on March 5, 2006 that it would acquire BellSouth. The acquisition was finalized on December 29, 2006 when the FCC gave its final approval. The following month, AT&T announced that it would phase out the Cingular brand across all of its services and replace it with AT&T, with an accompanying advertising campaign branding the combined company as "The New AT&T." Commercials featured the orange Cingular "Jack" logo encircling the AT&T globe logo several times, dragging its blue bars behind it to form the globe's blue stripes, before finally disappearing behind it. AT&T added the color orange to its signage to reflect the change.
In November 2007, AT&T acquired Dobson Communications, who owned Cellular One and was a roaming partner of AT&T, for $2.8 billion. The sale added 1.7 million subscribers and expanded AT&T coverage in various suburban and rural markets (including Alaska). On November 7, 2008, AT&T announced its intent to acquire Centennial Wireless for $944 million, expanding its coverage in the Midwest, southern U.S., and Puerto Rico.
On March 20, 2011, AT&T and Deutsche Telekom announced that AT&T had agreed to acquire T-Mobile USA from Deutsche Telekom in a deal estimated to be worth $39 billion in cash and stock. AT&T said the deal was expected to close in 12 months and was subject to regulatory approval. As of June 2011, it was being examined by the FCC. On August 31, 2011, the United States Department of Justice formally announced that it had filed a lawsuit to block the merger. On November 22, 2011, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski recommended sending AT&T's proposed T-Mobile acquisition to an administrative law judge for review and a hearing. On November 23, 2011 AT&T withdrew its application with the FCC regarding the acquisition of T-Mobile USA. They also indicated that they would recognize a $4 Billion dollar accounting charge in the event of a deal collapse. That charge covers a $3 Billion cash breakup fee and $1 Billion as the market value for the spectrum they were required to transfer to T-Mobile if the deal failed to complete.
On August 2, 2012, AT&T announced its intent to acquire NextWave Wireless. On January 22, 2013, AT&T announced its intent to acquire the U.S. retail wireless operations of Atlantic Tele-Network, doing business as Alltel, for $780 million. On June 24, 2014, Plateau Wireless announced the sale of assets and operations in eastern New Mexico and west Texas to AT&T, including wireless spectrum and 40,000 customers.
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 USA 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 USA, with Cingular continuing work on the GSM facilities at AT&T Wireless sites.
AT&T has a global sub-sea Tier-1 fiber network switching facility on St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, in conjunction with University of the Virgin Islands Research and Technology Park.
|850 MHz CLR||5||UMTS/HSPA+
up to 21Mbit/s
|3G||Active||Enhanced 3G services marketed as 4G.|
|1900 MHz PCS||2|
|700 MHz Lower B/C/D/E/PS Blocks||12/17||LTE||4G||Bands 12 and 17 are AT&T's main LTE bands for coverage.|
|14||Active/Building Out||Band 14 was acquired from FirstNet and is to be used for public safety services, although commercial uses are permitted (with lower priority).|
|29||Band 29 is only for supplemental downlink.|
|850 MHz CLR||5||Additional LTE bands for capacity.|
|1700/2100 MHz AWS||4|
|1900 MHz PCS||2|
|2300 MHz WCS||30|
As a result of its formation through mergers and acquisitions, as well as the rapid technological change in the wireless industry, AT&T operates the second largest digital voice and data network within its United States footprint. 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 network footprint now uses UMTS / HSPA+ Version 2 standard 3GPP+ wireless technologies (UMTS/HSPA) for simultaneous circuit switched voice and packet switched data communications. AT&T also offers Enhanced Push To Talk (PTT) services on smart phones. The original PTT service was sunset.
Cingular, the predecessor to AT&T, 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 predecessors including Cingular also include various paging services and the Cingular Interactive division, which became Velocita Wireless. Velocita was later purchased by Sprint Nextel.
The AT&T wireless data network began in 2002 as a Cingular initiative called "Project Genesis" that involved a GPRS overlay of the entire wireless network. Project Genesis was completed by the end of 2004. Later, this network was upgraded to EDGE across the GSM footprint.
In 2005, AT&T launched a broadband network known as "BroadbandConnect", based on UMTS and 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 to HSUPA, and will begin a new round of upgrades to the HSPA+ standard.
In 2011, it was reported that AT&T would upgrade its network to HSPA+ category 21 throughout the year, which it would promote as offering 4G-grade speeds. On September 18, 2011, AT&T first launched LTE service in 5 U.S. metropolitan areas, with plans for serving 15 markets by the end of the year. AT&T's LTE rollout was noticeably slower than that of its competitor, Verizon Wireless, with the company stating that its then-proposed acquisition of T-Mobile USA would be nessecary. In November 2012, AT&T promoted the network as serving 150 million users, with plans to double its coverage by 2014.
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. In turn, Cingular 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. 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. This campaign had to come to an abrupt end.
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." 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." 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."
On June 29, 2007, Apple's iPhone was introduced to the United States market, and it made AT&T the exclusive carrier for the device within the United States until February 10, 2011, when the iPhone 4 was launched on the Verizon network.
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 with one of the most notable being the 300-page iPhone bill that was featured in an online video by blogger Justine Ezarik.
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." In August 2008, Best Buy announced that it would begin selling the iPhone 3G for use on the AT&T network. In September 2008, AT&T announced that it would also sell the iPhone 3G in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The iPhone 4 was released on June 24, 2010. According to Apple, over 1.7 million iPhone 4 units were sold in the first few days, which is the most out of any phone ever sold. These sales propelled AT&T to strong Q2 results.
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, the Motorola Backflip. On March 22, 2010, AT&T announced that its second Android handset would be the Dell Aero, a revised version of the Dell Mini 3. However, the second Android phone AT&T released was the HTC Aria which was announced on June 14, 2010 and released on June 20, 2010. The Samsung Captivate, which is part of the Galaxy S family, was released on AT&T's network on July 18, 2010. In addition to devices released on AT&T were a line of handsets manufactured by Motorola. The Motorola Flipout, followed by the Motorola Flipside and the Motorola Bravo all run Android 2.1 and were all released Q4 2010. Three new 4G Android devices were announced for release within the first and second quarter of the fiscal year 2011, including the Motorola Atrix 4G, the HTC Inspire 4G, and the Samsung Infuse 4G. HTC Inspire 4G being the first, preceded by the Motorola Atrix 4G are, available through AT&T's 4G network. These three devices are all running Android 2.2 (Froyo) and are expected to be upgraded to Android 2.3 Gingerbread later in the year, along with an update to "enable" 4G uploads. Unlike other United States networks with Android-based phones, AT&T did not allow non-market apps to be installed. However, on May 16, 2011 AT&T announced that some current and future Android devices will come with an option to allow the installation of unofficial applications.
In a BBDO campaign for 4G and 4G LTE started in November 2012, Beck Bennett interviewed children in commercials directed by Jorma Taccone, with the slogan "It's not complicated." The children were asked whether fast or slow is better, or whether two is better than one. Taccone said "The spots are 'guided' improv", meaning the children were allowed to be natural until others had to step in and help.
AT&T reintroduced unlimited plans in 2016; on launch, users were required to subscribe to an AT&T-owned pay television service (DirecTV or U-verse) in order to be eligible. In April 2017, the Unlimited Plus plan was reduced in price, and a complimentary subscription to HBO (either as part of an AT&T-owned pay television service, or standalone via HBO Now) was added to both plans. In June 2018, the two plans were discontinued for new subscribers and replaced by similar "Unlimited & More" plans, which both include AT&T's new "Watch TV" service (which includes a selection of entertainment cable networks) at no charge, and Unlimited & More Premium allowing users to also choose a premium subscription service (such as Cinemax, HBO, Showtime, Starz, Amazon Music Unlimited, Pandora Premium, or VRV) as an add-on. The basic Unlimited & More plan is restricted to standard definition video streaming.
NumberSync was introduced in 2015. The service allows AT&T postpaid wireless customers to use one telephone number to send and receive calls and text messages across all of their supported devices.
In 2011, following a similar change by T-Mobile USA, AT&T began marketing its HSPA+ data network as being "4G", and distributed software patches to change network indicators to refer to HSPA+ networks as such. Media outlets considered this branding to be deceptive, as these network speeds did not meet the established 4G standards — which are synonymous with LTE. Concerns were also displayed over the possibility of confusion when actual LTE networks were deployed.
In 2017, AT&T began to similarly use the trademark 5G Evolution (5G E) to refer to LTE networks upgraded to support higher data speeds via LTE Advanced and LTE Advanced Pro features, such as 4x4 MIMO antennas, 256-QAM, and three-way carrier aggregation. AT&T promotes these services as having a theoretical top speed of 400 Mbit/s. The suite is supported on certain high-end Android smartphones offered by the carrier, such as the LG V30 and the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S9, and the iPhone XR and XS. In late 2018, AT&T began to deploy software updates to display a "5G E" network indicator when connected to such a network. 5G Evolution is unrelated to actual 5G wireless standards under development. AT&T states that these technologies "serve as the runway to 5G by boosting the existing LTE network and priming it for the future of connectivity", and argued that "the customer doesn't need to think about the exact technology - they only care on the performance and what it enables."
AT&T once again faced allegations that the branding was misleading, because it is merely a rebranding of existing 4G networks in order to ride upon consumer anticipation of actual 5G technology. T-Mobile US and Verizon Wireless have deployed similar late-stage upgrades in a larger number of markets than AT&T, but promote them as being upgrades to their 4G LTE service. T-Mobile mocked the branding via a video on Twitter, showing a person applying a sticky note reading "9G" over the LTE indicator on an iPhone, captioned "didn't realize it was this easy, brb updating". Technology website The Verge noted that the South American wireless carrier Claro had been using the branding "4.5G" (stylized to make the 4 slightly smaller than the 5) to promote similar upgrades to its LTE service, but felt that this brand was "not as baldfaced a deception as AT&T's 5G E".
In February 2019, Sprint Corporation sued AT&T Mobility for false advertising, presenting evidence that consumers were being misled into believing these services were of equal or higher performance than actual 5G networks. Sprint sought an injunction to halt AT&T's promotion of the network with this trademark. However, the two parties later settled.
Tests by Opensignal found the "5G E" networks to be slower than T-Mobile and Verizon's equivalent (4G) networks.
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 Corporation) 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, driven by Jeff Burton, in time for the Nextel All-Star Challenge that evening. NASCAR was later granted an appeal to be heard on August 2.
On June 17, NASCAR announced it had filed a US$100 million lawsuit against AT&T and would like AT&T and all other telecommunications companies out of the sport in 2008.
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 from featuring its logo on the car. The 11th Circuit dismissed a lower court's ruling that prevented NASCAR from stopping AT&T's plans. The appeals court remanded the case to the district court.
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, associate sponsors appeared, but no primary sponsors were on the car, similar to Formula One cars run in races where tobacco advertising is 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. 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. NASCAR later denied these claims.
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.
In 2012, AT&T came under scrutiny for throttling the speed of data delivered to consumers with an unlimited data plan. The company has claimed that, despite its claim of network speeds, it is within its legal rights to reduce the speed of data to consumers who reach preset thresholds. In May 2012, Matt Spaccarelli, a truck driver, won a small claims lawsuit against the company for slowing down his service. A Simi Valley, California judge awarded Spaccarelli $850, agreeing that "unlimited" service shouldn't be subject to slowdowns. Additionally, AT&T's user agreement does not permit class-action suits against the company.
In May 2013, AT&T added a 61 cent "Mobility Administrative Fee" per-month per-line to all of its wireless postpaid lines, including lines still under service contract. The fee appears "below the line" making it appear like a tax at the bottom of a customer's phone bill. This fee is thought to bring more than a half-billion dollars in a year for AT&T, which claims the fee is for covering the cost of cell sites and maintenance. In June 2018, AT&T raised the administrative fee to $1.99 from 76 cents per-line.
Internet message boards and blogs are buzzing with talk of paper iPhone bills dozens and even hundreds of pages long.
One blogger, in fact, is in the middle of her 15 minutes of fame after posting a video that shows her unwrapping a 300-page AT&T bill.
Justine Ezarik, a Pittsburgh graphic designer and active Internet blogger, got her first bill on Saturday. She says it was so huge — 300 pages — it was delivered in a box.
AT&T users that upgrade to iOS 9.2 will be able to utilize the NumberSync service ... NumberSync lets you connect all of your AT&T devices like smartphones, tablets and wearables to your main number. And all of your incoming calls and text messages are routed to those devices rather than having it forward from a smartphone.
|Mobile virtual network operators|
Defunct virtual operators