By swallowing AT&T Wireless, Cingular now is the nation’s largest wireless carrier with more than 46 million subscribers. In a deal valued at $41 billion, Cingular passes Verizon Wireless which counts about 40 million customer and distances itself from Sprint PCS with about 21 million customers, T-Mobile with 16 million and Nextel with about 14 million.
Under the merger plan approved by the FCC, the companies will not be allowed to merge in 16 markets and must divest themselves of assets in six additional markets in a total of 15 states: Oklahoma, Texas, Kentucky, Arkansas, Connecticut, Mississippi, Missouri, Michigan, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Georgia, California, Nevada and North Carolina. Cingular also was ordered to sell nearly all its assets in some small towns scattered in Connecticut, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Texas. It will have to abandon additional spectrum or ownership stakes in seven other states.
Cingular and AT&T Wireless currently are the slowest growing cellular providers in the US. While Verizon and T-Mobile keep attracting well over a million new customers every quarter, Cingular added less than 500,000 and AT&T Wireless just 15,000 in the most recent quarter. In the first quarter of this year, AT&T Wireless was the only company of the nation’s six largest mobile providers to loose customers (367,000) over the past year.