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Ma Bell returns: AT&T buys BellSouth for $67 billion

Ryan Block, @ryan

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The incest in the Bell family is getting a little out of control, but we're gonna try and break it down for you, being that news just hit the wires that AT&T is buying BellSouth for 67 billion. (Before we get started, we might recommend you hit up The Engadget Guide to AT&T Wireless/Cingular/SBC/AT&T merger mania we wrote last year.) So AT&T (formerly SBC, formerly AT&T), is buying one of the last two un-amalgamated missing links in the Ma Bell puzzle, BellSouth (the other being Qwest). As you may recall, BellSouth, one of the original 7 baby bells, also owns 40% of Cingular (complementing the 60% once owned by SBC, which is now called AT&T). Thus this sale would effectively transfer ownership of the nation's largest wireless carrier to AT&T. Now, to give this a little context: the only other baby bells left outside the AT&T umbrella in one form or another is Verizon (formerly Bell Atlantic, which merged with Nynex and GTE) and Qwest (which absorbed US West), neither of which will likely be comin' home to mama. So there you have it, if the SEC approves AT&T's purchase of BellSouth, we once again more or less return to the AT&T of 1984, 'cept now with a little more competition in the backbone and wireless services space. See, with a little of our help you'll know for whom the bell tolls; the bell tolls for Ma.

P.S. -Upon closer inspection of their press release, it might seem as though they'll be bringing Cingular under the AT&T brand after all, stating that the merger will "strengthen Cingular through unified ownership and a single brand," and that "simplifying the ownership structure will lead to...a single AT&T brand." Yes, this even though it'd be flying in the face of AT&T's previous statements about keeping Cingular, well, Cingular. Whereas they seem pretty clear about this, we have a feeling all will be revealed tomorrow morning at their webcast press conference at 10:00AM EST.

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