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Cellular Union Wins Final Approval

Cingular to Begin Patching Networks With AT&T Wireless

By Yuki Noguchi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 27, 2004; Page E05

Now Cingular Wireless LLC gets to reap the rewards -- and face the challenges -- of its new status as the nation's biggest cellular provider.

Cingular's $41 billion merger with AT&T Wireless Services Inc. closed yesterday, hours after the Federal Communications Commission granted final regulatory approval. The merger creates a cellular giant with more than 47 million customers in 49 states.

The $41 billion deal mandates that Cingular sell off its stores, contracts or airwaves in certain markets. (John Bazemore -- AP)

_____FCC In The News_____
Howard From Manhattan: Stern Calls In, Blasts FCC Chief (The Washington Post, Oct 27, 2004)
Cellular Merger Approved (The Washington Post, Oct 26, 2004)
Regulators Let Cingular Buy AT&T Wireless (The Washington Post, Oct 23, 2004)
FCC News Archive

The company said the combined resources will mean better, faster and cheaper services for customers. Still, Cingular must begin a two-year task of stitching together networks, billing systems and customer-care operations around the country -- and trying to do so without inconveniencing or alienating customers.

"What keeps me awake is what I don't know" about AT&T Wireless's operations, Cingular President Stanley T. Sigman said in an interview. By law, Cingular had to plan details of the integration without seeing its merger partner's internal data until the deal was approved.

"We've been planning a wedding without talking to the bride," Sigman said.

Analysts have said competitors like Verizon Wireless, now the second-largest carrier, will try to exploit any missteps during Cingular's integration process.

Last year and early this year, AT&T Wireless suffered a series of software and customer problems that damaged its reputation and severely eroded its sales. However, Sigman said Cingular's management has extensive experience merging operations, and Cingular doesn't expect disruptions.

This week, Cingular will begin a multimillion-dollar national advertising campaign to promote the merger, and signs at more than 1,000 AT&T Wireless retail stores will change as soon as possible, Sigman said.

Within the next few weeks, both companies' customers will get better network coverage as the two networks are combined, Sigman said. He also promised more customer care and options for service and handsets.

AT&T Wireless customers will not be required to change phones or calling plans, even if their contracts run out. As of Nov. 15, those customers will have the option of switching to Cingular's plans, which allow customers to "roll over" unused minutes into the next month, but customers doing so will have to purchase a new Cingular phone.

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