AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) Is one of the largest telecommunications companies in the United States. The current company, which is based in San Antonio, Texas, was formed in 2005 by SBC Communications' purchase of its former parent company, AT&T Corp. As a part of the merger, SBC shed its name and took on the iconic AT&T moniker (originally American Telephone and Telegraph) and the famed T stock-trading symbol (for "Telephone").
AT&T Corp. provides voice, video, data, and Internet telecommunications and professional services to businesses, consumers, and government agencies. During its long history, AT&T has at times been the world's largest telephone company, the world's largest cable television operator, and a regulated monopoly. At its peak, it employed one million people and its revenue was roughly $300 billion annually in today's dollars (for comparison, Exxon's 2005 annual revenue was $371 billion).
At the time of the merger with SBC, AT&T was headquartered in Bedminster, New Jersey.
Board of DirectorsEdit
- Edward E. Whitacre Jr.
- James A. Henderson
- Gilbert F. Amelio
- William F. Aldinger III
- August A. Busch III
- Martin K. Eby, Jr.
- Charles F. Knight
- Jon C. Madonna
- Lynn M. Martin
- Ronald M. Crump
- John B. McCoy
- Mary S. Metz
- Toni Rembe
- S. Donley Ritchey
- Joyce M. Roche
- Randall L. Stephenson
- Laura D'Andrea Tyson
- Patricia P. Upton
Largest Institutional InvestorsEdit
|Investment Company||Shares owned|
|Capital Research & Management Co||412,963,936|
|Fidelity Management & Research||279,096,320|
|State Street Global Advisors||249,360,576|
|Barclays Global Investors Na||203,255,552|
|Wellington Management Company||136,223,728|
|Mellon Private Wealth Management||59,271,264|
|Lord Abbett & Co||56,840,820|
|Tiaa-Cref Investment Management||53,856,684|
|Deutsche Asset Management (New York)||50,956,428|
|T Rowe Price Associates||42,333,576|
|Barrow Hanley Mewhinney & Strauss||41,020,856|
|Goldman Sachs Asset Management (US)||38,813,552|
The formation of the Bell Telephone Company superseded an agreement between Alexander Graham Bell and his financiers, principal among them Gardiner G. Hubbard and Thomas Sanders. Renamed the National Bell Telephone Company in March 1877, it became the American Bell Telephone Company in March 1880. By 1881, it had bought a controlling interest in the Western Electric Company from Western Union. Only three years earlier, Western Union had turned down Gardiner Hubbard's offer to sell it all rights to the telephone for $100,000.
In 1880, the management of American Bell, created what would become AT&T Long Lines. The project was the first of its kind to create nationwide long-distance network with a commercially viable cost-structure. This project was formally incorporated into a separate company christened American Telephone and Telegraph Company on March 3, 1885. Starting from New York the network reached Chicago, Illinois in 1892.
Bell's patent on the telephone expired in 1894, but the company's much larger customer base made its service much more valuable than alternatives and substantial growth continued.
On December 30, 1899, the American Telephone and Telegraph Company bought the assets of American Bell--this was because Massachusetts corporate laws were very restrictive and limited capitalization to ten million dollars, forestalling the growth of American Bell itself.
National long distance service reached San Francisco in 1915. Transatlantic services started in 1927 using two-way radio, but the first trans-Atlantic telephone cable did not arrive until 1956, with TAT-1.
As a result of a combination of regulatory actions by government and actions by AT&T, the firm eventually gained what most regard as monopoly status. In 1907, AT&T president Theodore Vail made it known that he was pursuing a goal of "One Policy, One System, Universal Service." AT&T began purchasing competitors, which attracted the attention of antitrust regulators. To avoid antitrust action, in a deal with the government, Vail agreed to the Kingsbury Commitment of 1913. The terms of the agreement allowed AT&T to purchase independent phone companies as long as it sold just as many. G.W. Brock says in Telephone:The First Hundred Years, "This provision allowed Bell and the independents to exchange telephones in order to give each other geographical monopolies. So long as only one company served a given geographical area there was little reason to expect price competition to take place." AT&T focused on purchasing companies within specific geographic areas while selling its other previously acquired companies to independent buyers. Also included in the Kingsbury Commitment was the requirement that AT&T allow competitors to connect through its phone lines. Economists point out that this reduced the incentive of these companies to build competing long-distance lines.
Around 1917, the idea that everyone in the country should have phone service and that the government should promote that began being discussed in government. AT&T agreed, saying in a 1917 annual report: "A combination of like activities under proper control and regulation, the service to the public would be better, more progressive, efficient, and economical than competitive systems." In 1918 the federal government nationalized the entire telecommmunications industry, with national security as the stated intent. Rates were regulated so that customers in large cities would pay higher rates to subsidize those in more remote areas. Vail was appointed to manage the telephone system with AT&T being paid a percentage of the telephone revenues. AT&T profited well from the nationalization arrangement which ended a year later. States then began regulating rates so that those in rural area would not have to pay high prices, and competition was highly regulated or prohibited in local markets. Also, potential competitors were forbidden from installing new lines to compete, with state governments wishing to avoid "duplication." The claim was that telephoning was a "natural monopoly," meaning that one firm can better serve the public than two or more. Eventually, AT&T's market share amounted to a what most regard as monopoly.
For most of the 20th century, AT&T subsidiary AT&T Long Lines thus enjoyed a near-total monopoly on long distance telephone service in the United States. AT&T also controlled 22 Bell Operating Companies which provided local telephone service to most of the United States. While there were many "independent telephone companies", General Telephone being the most significant, the Bell System was far larger than all the others, and widely considered a monopoly itself.
During the early 1920s, AT&T bought Lee De Forest's patents on the "audion", the first triode vacuum tube, which let them enter the radio business. Thanks to the pressures of World War I, AT&T and RCA owned all useful patents on vacuum tubes. RCA staked a position in wireless communication; AT&T pursued the use of tubes in telephone amplifiers. Some patent allies and partners in RCA were angered when the two companies' research on tubes began to overlap; there were many patent disputes.
AT&T, RCA, and their patent allies and partners finally settled their disputes in 1926 by compromise. AT&T decided to focus on the telephone business as a communications common carrier, and sold its broadcasting subsidiary Broadcasting Corporation of America to RCA. The assets included station WEAF, which for some time had broadcast from AT&T headquarters in New York City. In return, RCA signed a service agreement with AT&T, ensuring any radio network RCA started would have transmission connections provided by AT&T. Both companies agreed to cross-license patents, ending that aspect of the dispute. RCA, GE, and Westinghouse were now free to combine their assets to form the National Broadcasting Company, or NBC network.
In 1925, AT&T created a new unit called Bell Telephone Laboratories, commonly known as Bell Labs. This research and development unit proved highly successful, pioneering, among other things, radio astronomy, the transistor, the photovoltaic cell, the Unix operating system, and the C programming language. However, its parent company did not always capitalize on these achievements. In 1949 the Justice Department filed an antitrust suit aimed at forcing the divestiture of Western Electric, which was settled seven years later by AT&T's agreement to confine its products and services to common carrier telecommunications and license its patents to "all interested parties". A key effect of this was to ban AT&T from selling computers despite its key role in electronics research and development.
Public utility commissions in all state and local jurisdictions regulated the Bell System and all the other telephone companies. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulated all service across state lines. These commissions controlled the rates that companies could charge, and the specific services and equipment they could offer. Nonetheless, technological innovation continued. For example, AT&T commissioned the first experimental communications satellite, Telstar I in 1962.
Erosion of natural monopolyEdit
For many years, AT&T had been permitted to retain its monopoly status under the assumption that it was a natural monopoly. The first erosion to this monopoly occurred in 1956 where the Hush-a-Phone v. FCC ruling allowed a third-party device to be attached to rented telephones owned by AT&T. This was followed by the 1968 Carterphone decision that allowed third-party equipment to be connected the AT&T telephone network. The rise of cheap microwave communications equipment in the 1960s and 1970s opened a window of opportunity for competitors--no longer was the acquisition of expensive rights-of-way necessary for the construction of a long-distance telephone network. In light of this, the FCC permitted MCI (Microwave Communications, Inc) to sell communication services to large businesses. This technical-economic argument against the necessity of AT&T's monopoly position would hold for a mere fifteen years until the beginning of the fiber-optics revolution sounded the end of microwave-based long distance.
Break up, spinoffs and restructuringEdit
The rest of the telephone monopoly lasted until final settlement of a 1974 United States Department of Justice antitrust suit against AT&T on January 8, 1982, under which AT&T ("Ma Bell") agreed to divest its local exchange service operating companies, in return for a chance to go into the computer business (see AT&T Computer Systems). Although the Department of Defense did not want AT&T to be broken up, effective January 1, 1984, AT&T's local operations were split into seven independent Regional Bell Operating Companies known as "Baby Bells". AT&T, reduced in value by about 70%, continued to run all its long distance services through AT&T Communications (the new name of AT&T Long Lines), although it lost some market share in the ensuing years to competitors MCI and Sprint Corporation.
A sign that hung in many Bell facilities in 1983 read: "There are two giant entities at work in our country, and they both have an amazing influence on our daily lives . . . one has given us radar, sonar, stereo, teletype, the transistor, hearing aids, artificial larynxes, talking movies, and the telephone. The other has given us the Civil War, the Spanish American War, the First World War, the Second World War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, double-digit inflation, double digit unemployment, the Great Depression, the gasoline crisis, and the Watergate fiasco. Guess which one is now trying to tell the other one how to run its business?"
After its own attempt to penetrate the computer marketplace failed, in 1991, AT&T absorbed NCR Corporation (National Cash Register), hoping to capitalize on the burgeoning personal computer and UNIX networked server markets, but was unable to extract lasting financial or technological gains from the merger. After deregulation of the U.S. telecom industry via the Telecommunications Act of 1996, NCR was divested again. At the same time, the majority of AT&T Technologies and the renowned Bell Laboratories was spun off as Lucent Technologies. The industry as a whole had many other reorganizations since the 1990s, both due to deregulation and because of technological advances reducing demand and pricing power in telecommunications.
In 1997, AT&T hired former IBM executive C Michael Armstrong as its chief executive officer. Armstrong's vision was to change AT&T from a long-distance carrier into a global "telecommunications supermarket", eyeing Internet services for the booming dot-com industry.
Armstrong's most prominent strategy was buying significant cable television assets. After acquiring John Malone's TCI and Media One (gaining through the latter a 25% share of Time Warner Cable), AT&T was the largest provider of cable television in the United States. It intended to use these assets to bridge the so-called "last mile" and break the Regional Bell Companies' access-monopoly of the consumer household for data and telephony services, but the wager was costly, substantially increasing the company's debt.
In 1998, AT&T announced a US$1 billion alliance with BT to offer global voice over IP (VoIP) services, called Concert, sparking rumors of a potential merger . But the parties fought for control of the project and could not even agree on the alliance's name. By mid-2001, customers were being directed to sign contracts with the parent companies, and Concert Communications Services, as the venture was eventually known, was scrapped in October that year.
Also in 1999, AT&T paid US$5 billion to purchase IBM's Global Network business, which became AT&T Global Network Services, LLC. As part of the purchase agreement, IBM granted AT&T a five-year, US$5-billion contract to handle much of IBM's networking needs, and AT&T outsourced some of its applications processing and data management work to IBM. IBM also committed to billing and installation for AT&T's long-distance customers in a 10-year deal valued at US$4 billion; and assumed management of AT&T's data processing centers.
With long-distance rates falling and the market for telecommunications services overall weakening, AT&T could not sustain the debt it had incurred in these ventures. Moreover, the cost of upgrading TCI's equipment to handle two-way communications proved far higher than pre-merger estimates. AT&T undertook a major reorganization in October 2000, moving its mobile phone and broadband units into separate companies, to allow each unit to raise capital independently.
On July 9, 2001 it spun off AT&T Wireless Corp. in what was then the world's largest initial public offering (IPO). Later that year it spun off AT&T Broadband and Liberty Media, which comprised its cable TV assets. AT&T Broadband was subsequently acquired by Comcast in 2002, and AT&T Wireless merged with Cingular Wireless LLC in 2004.
In 2004, the U.S. government eliminated equal access regulations that allowed long-distance phone companies to access the networks owned by the regional Bell carriers at fixed rates. This ultimately caused AT&T to move away from the residential telephone business--declaring in the process that it would no longer market residential telephone service. Instead, its residential focus shifted to offering a voice service over a broadband Internet connection called AT&T CallVantage.
A division of AT&T, the Lucky Dog Phone Company provides a pay-as-you-go long distance phone service for in-state, state-to-state, and international calls with charges added to the caller's regular monthly phone bill. Under the name 10-10-345, Lucky Dog sponsored the #45 Winston Cup car driven by Rich Bickle in 1999.
The AT&T Globe Symbol, the corporate logo designed by Saul Bass in 1983, has been nicknamed the Death Star in reference to Star Wars. This name was also given to the titanic Bell Labs facility in Holmdel, New Jersey, now owned by Lucent.
Southwestern Bell Corporation, headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri, was one of the seven original Regional Bell Operating Companies, or "Baby Bells." The company — a holding company for Southwestern Bell Telephone Company — was a result of U.S. antitrust action against AT&T in 1983. AT&T had adopted the name Southwestern Bell for its local operations in Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, and Arkansas in April 1920.
In 1993 Southwestern Bell Corp. moved its headquarters to San Antonio, Texas and, during its annual meeting of stockholders in 1995, the company announced that its name would be changed to SBC Communications, Inc. The name change was an effort to reinforce the company's national and global reach and the company not only stated that "SBC" wasn't an acronym for Southwestern Bell Corporation, but that it did not stand for anything at all.
SBC then proceeded (as permitted by the Telecommunications Act of 1996) to acquire fellow baby bell Pacific Telesis, the Regional Bell operating company serving Nevada and California, in 1997 and the former independent Bell System franchise SNET (Southern New England Telephone).
SBC then announced plans to acquire Ameritech, the Regional Bell operating company serving Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin,, and told the FCC that it would allow competitors access to local markets where it had had a monopoly if the FCC would allow them to acquire Ameritech. The FCC agreed and in May 1998, SBC and Ameritech announced the merger would move forward. After making several organizational changes (such as the sale of Ameritech Wireless to GTE) to satisfy state and Federal regulators, the two merged on October 8, 1999. The FCC later fined SBC Communications $6 million for failure to comply with agreements made in order to secure approval of the merger.
In 2002, SBC ended marketing its operating companies under different names, and simply opted give its companies different doing business as names based on the state, and it gave the holding companies it had purchased d/b/a names based on their general region. This resulted in (bolded companies indicate holding companies):
- SBC Communications, Inc.
- SBC Southwest, internal d/b/a name for Southwestern Bell Telephone
- SBC Arkansas
- SBC Kansas
- SBC Missouri
- SBC Oklahoma
- SBC Texas
- SBC West, internal d/b/a name for Pacific Telesis
- SBC California
- SBC Nevada
- SBC East, internal d/b/a name for Southern New England Telecommunications
- SBC SNET
- SBC Midwest, internal d/b/a name for SBC Teleholdings, the new name of Ameritech
- SBC Illinois
- SBC Indiana
- SBC Michigan
- SBC Ohio
- SBC Wisconsin
- SBC Southwest, internal d/b/a name for Southwestern Bell Telephone
At the time of SBC's purchase of AT&T in 2005, SBC provided local telephone service in 13 states (Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Wisconsin), provided long distance service to 10 million customers and owned 60% of mobile phone provider Cingular Wireless , the largest mobile phone service provider in the United States. BellSouth, in a joint venture with AT&T Inc., owns the remaining 40% of Cingular Wireless. The company was also an Internet Service Provider and the largest Digital Subscriber Line(DSL) provider in the US, with more than 5.1 million DSL subscribers as of late 2005.
The company was formerly traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) as "SBC" until shortly after its purchase of AT&T Corp. was completed in November of 2005. The company was renamed AT&T Inc. and began trading on the NYSE under the symbol "T" on December 1, 2005.