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AT&T stands for American Telephone and Telegraph Company. AT&T Inc. It is the largest provider of local and long distance telephone services in United States. It also provides wireless service under the brand Cingular Wireless and DSL Internet access in USA. This company is based in San Antonio, United States. Current AT&T was formed when SBC Communications purchased its parent company, AT&T Corp. Although many consider it as SBC renamed, most of its subsidiaries, like Bell Operating Companies were a part of AT&T till 1984 and new AT&T refers to merger of SBC, AT&T and BellSouth Although, AT&T still suffers from the anti-trust suits which were a part of 1984 breakup and the accusations after it and lacks the integration it once had.


Roots of original AT&T dates back to 1875, though it was incorporated in New York in 1885, and can also be considered as the history of telephone in United States. It started with the invention of telephone by Graham Bell. During the same century, AT&T led to Bell System, the American telephone monopoly. It provided what was considered as the best telephone service in world. By an agreement between AT&T and US Dept of Justice, it broke up in eight companies in 1984. Till 1996, AT&T was an equipment and integrated telecommunications services company. Today it is the global networking leader and provides IP based solutions to its private and public customers. Though AT&T is pivoting away from traditional services, it still offers an alternative to traditional services in form of Voice over IP.

The Growth Path

It started as a subsidiary of American Bell Telephone Company and had a firm mission as “Connect one or more points in each and every city, town or place in the State of New York with one or more points in every other city, town or place in said State and in each and every other of the United States, Canada and Mexico; and each and every of said cities, towns and places is to be connected with each and every other city, town or place in said states and countries, and also by cable and other appropriate means with the rest of the known world.”

Its first line was to Philadelphia in 1886. In 1892, it started a 950 mile telephone service between New York and Chicago. It was the longest possible line owing to the existing technology. The limit was extended to 2000 miles with the innovation of loading coils. With repeaters (or amplifiers) made from vacuum tubes, AT&T opened transcontinental telephone service in 1915.

It acquired American Bell in 1899 and became the parent company of Bell Telephone System and AT&T’s original operation was known as Long Lines Division. Telephone line between New York and Paris was inaugurated on March 28, 1928. Private telegraph service was also a part of traffic. Radio programs were transmitted across the country since its earlier days. In 1920s transmission of radio programs and wire photos across the country was initiated by AT&T. In 1930s, digital transmission of text was started. In the 1940s, programs were sent to distant stations by Television Networking Service. In late 1950s, AT&T introduced commercial modems. These new devices called as computers were able to communicate with each other.

Continuous innovation was needed to keep up the pace to meet the growing demands. Each area needed improvement and expansion. Open wires led to cable, coaxial cable, microwave relays, and now fiber optics to improve the transmission. Switching evolved from operators to digital computers gradually through plug boards and electromechanical automatic switches. Management improved to real-time monitoring and control from master switching plans after a few changes involving route books and hierarchical networks.

Cingular merger

AT&T Wireless was merged with Cingular in 2004. Since then, Cingular has become AT&T Wireless.


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