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Cingular and AT&T Merge, Creating Biggest US Wireless Carrier

"It's a new day for wireless customers in America"

Just hours after receiving the regulatory green light from the Federal Communications Commission, Cingular closed its $41 billion merger with AT&T Wireless yesterday. The newly created company is now the nation's biggest wireless carrier, with a customer base in excess of 46 million covering 49 states.

With its newfound stature also comes a host of connectivity-related problems that must be overcome. Cingular estimates it will take about two years to tie together the various networks, billing systems, and customer care options that exist across the country. Cingular was quick to point out that despite these obstacles, customers will come out ahead, with service that is better, faster, and less costly.

Stan Sigma, president and CEO of Cingular, as one would expect, heralded the merger. "It's a new day for wireless customers in America," he said, "We are committed to improving the wireless experience and giving customers the coverage, the phones, the capabilities and the call clarity they deserve."

Sigma went on to describe some ensuing projects, "We are also committed to expanding our high-speed Third Generation services to the ever-growing community of mobile data users. And Cingular is laying the foundation to enable rural carriers to bring 3G services to rural America."

He admitted, however, the dust is still settling. Cingular was bound by law to outline the merger, without any prior access to AT&T's internal data. Such information is available only after the merger's execution. "What keeps me awake is what I don't know," Sigma said.

Beginning next week, nationwide advertising, marketing, and subscription initiatives will be rolled out. AT&T's 1,000 stores will all need new signs and branding. Cingular will also need a face-lift in the process.

As for current AT&T subscribers, Cingular said they will not be required to change phones or calling plans, even if their contracts run out. On Nov. 15, the choice to switch to Cingular's plans will be put before customers. The only catch is that a new Cingular handset will have to be bought in the process.

Cingular is a joint venture between SBC Communications and BellSouth. These companies own large telecommunication properties that are distributed beyond wireless networks. This can be good news for consumers, who will likely be offered bundled packages that will include wireless, local, long-distance and Internet services. In the process, independent carriers like Nextel may be pushed aside. The merger bumped Verizon down to second place as the nation's largest wireless carrier.

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WBT News Desk brings you all the latest and greatest news from the world of wireless business and technology, including breaking news, technical articles and feature stories written by the world's leading experts of mBusiness.

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