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Throwback Thursday: AT&T Wireless

Updated Dec 19th, 2018 7:14PM EST

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As you can see from the above image, the destruction and slow reconstruction of AT&T is quite a story. With the T-Mobile merger currently being debated by Congress, potentially adding another chapter to the saga, we thought it might be a good idea to look at the genesis of AT&T Mobility as it stands today. It all started back in 2001 with AT&T Wireless…

AT&T got its start in wireless communications when it purchased the Washington-based company McCaw Cellular in 1994. With a subscriber base just north of 2 million users, AT&T had officially thrown its hat into the cellular arena. The company continued to grow and collect end-users, and in 1997 — with current Sprint CEO Dan Hesse as its chairman and CEO — AT&T became the U.S.’s largest cellular provider. In 2000, the company was jettisoned from the main AT&T brand and in 2001 it turned into a separately traded company on the New York Stock Exchange; known as AT&T Wireless.

In 2004, with customer subscriptions declining, the company began to accept bids for an acquisition. U.S.-based wireless provider Cingular — a venture of BellSouth and SBC Communications — agreed to purchase the company for $41 billion. Cingular, through the acquisition, ousted Verizon Wireless, a joint venture between Verizon Communications and Vodafone, as the largest cellular provider in the States.

Fast forward to late 2005 and early 2006: SBC Communications purchases AT&T Corp. and begins to market itself under the AT&T brand; the new AT&T announces that it will acquire the phone operations of BellSouth and its stake in AT&T Wireless; and a new company is born. In 2007, after a three-year hiatus, an AT&T-branded wireless company returned with the christening of AT&T Mobility.

Were the AT&T and T-Mobile merger to go through, the company would again — for the third time — become the country’s largest wireless provider through the use of its checkbook. And the vicious cycle continues.

BGR’s Throwback Thursday is a weekly series covering our (and your) favorite gadgets, games, and software of yesterday and yesteryear.