A Low-Key Migration
Few Immediate Changes Expected as AT&T, Cingular Merge
Saturday, October 9, 2004; Page E01
Change is coming for AT&T Wireless's 21.7 million customers -- although they wouldn't know it from watching the company's commercials or shopping in its stores.
If all goes as planned by the companies, Cingular will eclipse Verizon Wireless as the nation's biggest wireless company, with 46.7 million customers. It will start changing signs, displays, and computer systems in the more than 1,000 retail stores owned by AT&T Wireless Services Inc.
Within months of regulators' approval, AT&T Wireless customers can expect the screen on their phones to display the Cingular name, company executives said, and their bills will start arriving in Cingular envelopes.
AT&T Wireless continues to take out full-page advertisements in newspapers and air primetime commercials on television, none of them mentioning the expected sale to Atlanta-based Cingular. The company also has continued to introduce services, phones and plans geared toward locking customers into contracts that would extend well into the merger.
"This is the first time I've heard of it," said Pat Keeton, an administrative assistant who lives in Takoma Park, when asked about the merger after browsing an AT&T Wireless store in downtown Washington this week. "They don't have anything about that in the store."
That's because the companies are legally prohibited from discussing their pending merger, or advertising it, until it's approved by regulators, said Peter Rowe, an AT&T Wireless spokesman.