Goodbye, Cingular. Hello, iPhone. AT&T officially kicks off the rebranding of Cingular Wireless on 21 May, a month before the highly anticipated launch of the Apple iPhone.
San Antonio, Texas-based AT&T acquired Cingular and its deal to be the exclusive wireless provider for the iPhone -- when it purchased Bell South for $67 billion (Rs 2,72,297 crore) last year.
In marketing campaigns, the company will replace the phrase "Cingular is now the new AT&T" with "Wireless from AT&T, formerly Cingular." The Cingular "Jack" will also be used less prominently.
"As we move to one brand, we thought it is important to have our AT&T brand associated with the launch of the iPhone," said Jace Barbin, AT&T's newly appointed vice president and general manager for the Rocky Mountain Region -- which includes Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. "We've already had over 1 million people sign up on our Web site just to be notified when the iPhone is going to be released."
Formerly AT&T's national vice president of direct marketing, Barbin will be based in Colorado, where the company employs about 550 people.
The iPhone is expected to hit stores in late June. It is billed as a three-in-one gadget -- a mobile phone, a widescreen iPod and an Internet device with full Web-browsing capabilities. With a two-year service contract, the iPhone will cost $499 for a 4-gigabyte model and $599 for an 8-gigabyte model.
"I've heard stories about AT&T forbidding its sales folks from taking a vacation between mid-June and mid-July during the launch of the iPhone because they think demand is going to be so high for it," said Joe Laszlo, senior analyst for Jupiter Research. "I think they're probably right. It's going to be really big."
AT&T Mobility, which is what the company calls its wireless division internally, is the nation's largest cell phone carrier with 63 million subscribers, just ahead of Verizon Wireless. Laszlo said the iPhone may help AT&T widen its lead.
"At least in the early months, AT&T is going to get a fair number of people changing cell phone providers for the phone, which almost never happens," he said.
Apple expects to sell 10 million phones globally in the first 18 months after launch, according to UBS analyst John Hodulik.
"We believe competitive intensity will kick in to high gear in late June when AT&T launches the Apple iPhone," Hodulik wrote in a recent research note. "We do not expect Verizon to take this push lying down and expect the company to defend its market share with greater subsidies, upgrade activity, promotion and advertising."
As part of the rebranding initiative, Cingular customers will start seeing AT&T on their cell phone screens and billing statements. "By the middle of June, we'll have all of our stores across the entire Rocky Mountain Region rebranded to AT&T, both internal and external," Barbin said.