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AT&T Inc.

legal form Corporation
ISIN US00206R1023
founding March 3, 1885
Seat Dallas , Texas , United States
United StatesUnited States 
management Randall Stephenson
(Chairman & CEO )
Number of employees 247,800 (2019)
sales $ 181.2 billion (2019)
Branch telecommunications

Classic AT&T logo
American Telephone & Telegraph Company stock dated December 20, 1921
Corporate headquarters in Dallas
Telephone booth operated by AT&T

The AT & T Inc. [ ˌeɪtiːəntiː ] (originally English American Telephone and Telegraph Company ) is a North American telecommunications company . AT & T provides next phone - data - and video telecommunications and mobile telephony and Internet services to businesses, consumers and government organizations.

AT&T has long had a monopoly in the US and Canada . Therefore, the company has long been the largest telephone company in the world and the world's largest cable television operator . At times the company employed more than a million people.

With a turnover of 163.0 billion US dollars and a profit of 13.0 billion US dollars, AT&T ranks 11th among the world's largest companies according to Forbes Global 2000 (as of fiscal 2016). The company had a market capitalization of $ 249.3 billion in early 2017, making it the most valuable telecommunications company in the world.



The formation of the Bell Telephone Company in 1877 replaced an agreement between Alexander Graham Bell and his financiers, Gardiner Greene Hubbard and Thomas S. Sanders (1839-1911). In March 1879 the company was renamed the National Bell Telephone Company and in March 1880 the American Bell Telephone Company . In 1881 the company already had a controlling interest in the Western Electric Company of the Western Union . Just three years earlier, Western Union had turned down Gardiner Hubbard's offer to purchase all rights to the phone for $ 100,000.

The American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T for short) was founded on March 3, 1885 to operate the country's first telephone network. Starting in New York , the telephone network reached Chicago in 1892 and San Francisco in 1915 . Transatlantic connections were offered by radio transmission from 1927, the first transatlantic deep-sea cable was not put into operation until 1956 with TAT-1 .

Monopoly position

On December 30, 1899, the American Telephone and Telegraph Corporation bought the assets of American Bell, thereby establishing the American telephone monopoly. This was known as the Bell System because Bell had gradually appropriated all companies that owned rights to its telephone technology.

The telephone market was very competitive in the early 20th century. In 1907, AT&T chairman Theodore Vail made the claim that a monopoly was more efficient. The American federal government first adopted this idea in the Kingsbury Commitment of 1913.

For much of the 20th century, AT&T subsidiary AT&T Long Lines enjoyed a near monopoly on long-distance calls in the United States. AT&T also controlled 22 Bell Operating Companies, which provided the majority of the local telephone networks. There were a lot of "independent telephone companies", General Telephone was one of the most important, but the Bell system was much larger than any other and was commonly viewed as a monopoly.

During the early 1920s, AT&T bought Lee DeForest's patents on the Audion , the first vacuum tubes that opened the door to the radio business for them . Thanks to the pressure of World War I , all usable patents on vacuum tubes had passed into the possession of AT&T and RCA . RCA was interested in the use of wireless communication; AT&T pursued the use of tubes for signal amplifiers in the telephone area. Some of the RCA's patent allies and partners reacted angrily when it became clear that the two companies' research overlapped in some areas; there have been a lot of patent challenges.

AT&T, RCA, their patent allies and partners finally ended their argument with a settlement in 1926. AT&T decided to focus on the phone business and eventually sold its broadcasting subsidiary Broadcasting Company of America to RCA. The inventory also includes the station WEAF, which had also broadcast from the AT&T headquarters in New York at times. In return, RCA signed an agreement with AT&T assuring that every new radio station from RCA would have AT&T transmission links. Both companies decided to mutually license their patents, which ended that part of the dispute. RCA, GE and Westinghouse have now been able to combine their fortunes to form the National Broadcasting Company (NBC Network ).

Not-for-profit commissions and local governments owned the Bell system and all other telephone companies. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulated all services that acted across state borders. These commissions decided what fees companies would charge and what services and equipment they could offer. AT&T participated in technological progress. For example, AT&T launched the first commercial communications satellite , Telstar I, in 1962 . These and other new technologies convinced the FCC to hold competitions in some areas, and after 1975 various telephone services competed with one another.

Antitrust proceedings

In 1974 the US Department of Justice filed an antitrust case against AT&T. The remnants of the telephone monopoly existed until the final agreement on January 8, 1982, when AT&T agreed to sell its subsidiaries, which operated the local switching services. On January 1, 1984, AT & T's local network operators were split into seven independent Regional Bell Operating Companies , also known as Baby Bells . Their names were Ameritech , Bell Atlantic , BellSouth , NYNEX , Pacific Telesis , Southwestern Bell and US West . AT&T, which thus lost about 70 percent of its value, continued its business with its telephone services. Since that split, the American phone market has gone through a lot of reorganization, further splits, mergers and acquisitions.

In 1991 AT&T bought the National Cash Register (NCR), only to sell it in 1996 and voluntarily split off a large part of the AT&T equipment manufacturers and transform the renowned Bell Laboratories into Lucent Technologies .

AT&T is focusing on telecommunications services again, buying up major cable television operators, including a. John Malones TCI Corp. and Media One , thereby acquiring a 25% stake in Time Warner Cable. AT&T was the largest operator of cable television in the USA and intended to bridge the “ last mile ” to the consumer. This would have broken the Regional Bell Companies' monopoly of access to data and video services in households. But falling telephone charges and a shrinking market for telecommunications services made it impossible for AT&T to carry the debt through the acquisitions, and AT&T eventually had to change its plans. In 2002 AT&T sold its cable television division to Comcast Communications Corporation.

In 2001, AT&T officially spun off AT&T Wireless from the company, making it the largest public IPO in the world.

New AT&T

In 2005, the remainder of AT&T was taken over by the former subsidiary SBC Communications ( Southwestern Bell Corporation ) for over $ 16 billion . The new group decided to take over the traditional name AT&T for the whole company.

In 2006, the new AT&T announced that it wanted to take over the baby bell company BellSouth , which had split off over 20 years ago, for almost 70 billion dollars. If the deal were to come about, the company would overtake competitor Verizon Communications and become the world's largest telecommunications company again. For this purpose, it received the approval of the US regulatory authority FCC on December 29, 2006.

In June 2007, AT&T took over the US cellular phone company Dobson Communications Corporation for $ 2.8 billion.

In August 2007 it became known that the company had censored the dissemination of criticism of the Bush administration via its own Internet network . This was noticed at a Pearl Jam concert , where, for example, George Bush, find yourself another home was cut out. The company then admitted that such incidents had occurred before.

In March 2011, AT&T announced the acquisition of T-Mobile USA from Deutsche Telekom for 39 billion dollars: 25 billion of it in cash, the rest in AT&T shares. This would have made Deutsche Telekom the largest minority shareholder with around 8% of the shares . However, the US Department of Justice successfully sued the US competition authority against the sale . AT&T therefore had to pay a total breakup fee of around US $ 6 billion to Deutsche Telekom, which included, among other things, the payment of three billion dollars. Breakup fees usually amount to between 1 and 5% of the transaction volume. The total amount of US $ 6 billion, on the other hand, was 15% of the planned transaction amount and was therefore unusually high.

In May 2014, AT&T submitted an offer to acquire DirecTV . In return, AT&T sold its 8% stake in América Móvil in order to avoid antitrust problems .

In October 2016, AT&T agreed to acquire Time Warner by the end of 2017 at a cost of $ 85 billion. Including assumed debt, the purchase price is $ 108.7 billion.

On June 14, 2018, AT&T confirmed the merger with Time Warner, to which u. a. Warner Bros , the news channel CNN and the pay channel HBO belong. The government had initially filed an antitrust lawsuit against the merger because it feared that it would have too much market power and disadvantages for competitors and customers. Judge Richard Leon of the competent court in Washington had already approved the merger unconditionally on June 12th.

Business figures

Business and employee development (the fiscal year ends on June 30th)
year Sales
in billions of US $
Balance sheet profit
in billion US $
Price per share
in US $
2005 43.764 4,786 12.01
2006 63.055 7.356 15.46
2007 118.928 11,951 21.57
2008 123.443 −2.625 18.97
2009 122.513 12,138 15.56
2010 124.280 19.864 17.27
2011 126.723 3,944 20.17
2012 127.434 7.264 24.59
2013 128.752 18,418 27.05 243,000
2014 132.447 6.442 27.82 253,000
2015 146,801 13,345 28.71 281,000
2016 163.786 12.976 35.19 268,000
2017 160.546 29,450 36.24 252,000
2018 170.756 19,370 268.220


American Telephone and Telegraph was also known as Ma Bell , and was affectionately known as MOTHER by Telephone Phreaks . Subsidiaries such as the Regional Bell Operating Companies ( RBOC ) were often referred to as Baby Bells .

Working with the NSA

In the documents disclosed by Edward Snowden it became clear that the NSA has seen the group as an " extremely helpful partner " since 2003 when it comes to making user data available via programs such as FAIRVIEW .

Web links

Commons : AT&T  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b 2019 Annual Report. P. 107 , accessed on May 12, 2020 (English).
  2. 1979 Annual Report
  3. ^ AT&T on the Forbes Global 2000 List . In: Forbes . ( [accessed November 20, 2017]).
  4. $ 100,000 in 1877 corresponds to approximately $ 2,262,000 in 2012 purchasing power .
  5. AT&T buys Dobson cell phone company for $ 2.8 billion
  6., AT&T admits cropping of further concert webcasts , August 14, 2007
  7. Handelsblatt December 19, 2011, “Break-up Fee” - a consolation for Telekom?
  8. Merger with DirecTV: US mobile operator AT&T pays almost 50 billion dollars for pay TV. In: Spiegel Online . May 19, 2014, accessed April 7, 2015 .
  9. ^ AT&T Completes Acquisition of Time Warner Inc. - Positioned to be a Global Leader as a Modern Media Company. In: Business Wire . June 16, 2018, accessed June 16, 2018 .
  10. AT&T swallows Time Warner - Trump administration gives in. In: Frankfurter Neue Presse . June 15, 2018, accessed June 15, 2018 .
  11. AT&T Financial Statements 2005-2018 | T. Retrieved October 22, 2018 .
  12. Company profile . Retrieved October 22, 2018 .
  13. a b c 2018 Annual Report. AT&T Inc., p. 19 , accessed on October 29, 2019 .
  14. NSA scandal: network operator AT&T is darling of the US secret service , August 16, 2015