AT&T to replace Cingular brand Monday

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The Cingular name will start to disappear on Monday, when the AT&T brand will once again describe a mobile offering in the U.S.

AT&T Inc. will launch a new advertising campaign to replace the Cingular brand with its own, the company announced Friday. The campaign starts on Monday and will initially feature a transitional graphic that includes elements of both the AT&T and Cingular logos.

As a result of a series of mergers and acquisitions, the AT&T brand on a wireless service was recently killed off, only to now be revived.

AT&T Wireless was once an independent company that had been spun off from AT&T Corp. Cingular Wireless LLC bought the wireless operator and eliminated the AT&T Wireless brand. Then SBC, one of the owners of Cingular, bought AT&T, adopting the AT&T brand for its landline services. More recently, AT&T bought BellSouth Corp., the other owner of Cingular, spurring the switch back to the AT&T brand for the wireless service.

Now that AT&T is the parent company of several telecommunications brands, it is consolidating the branding under the AT&T name as a way of cutting costs. AT&T estimates that 20 percent of the operating expenses it expects to save though the merger with BellSouth will come from consolidating advertising.

Although well-known, the AT&T brand has been tarnished a bit since Cingular's acquisition of AT&T Wireless. A class action lawsuit claims that Cingular intentionally allowed the AT&T Wireless network to degrade as a way to encourage customers to switch to the Cingular network. Cingular then charged customers early termination fees to cancel their AT&T Wireless accounts, as well as other fees for setting up new contracts with Cingular, the suit alleges.

Throughout this year, the 2,000 Cingular stores and kiosks will get new AT&T signs. The company will use the co-branded graphic until customers become aware that Cingular is now AT&T. AT&T did not say how long that might take.

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