The AT&T brand has been a fixture in the Puerto Rico market for decades, during which it has been associated with both wireless and wireline services — a dominant carrier for when per-minute, long-distance calling existed — that changed the face of local telecommunications.
The AT&T name has been around since the telephone was invented. In 1877, Alexander Graham Bell established Bell Telephone Co. in 1877, and later got together with his father-in-law, Gardiner Green Hubbard, to establish American Telephone & Telegraph in 1885.
The second company bought the first, paving the way for the famous “Ma Bell” moniker for the company that was the parent of all U.S. mainland telephone services. Its tight grip on telecoms came to an end in 1982, when federal regulators mandated a break-up of the company.
While it is not clear when AT&T entered the Puerto Rican market, long distance services were introduced in the late 1960’s, according to the Puerto Rico Telecom Bureau. The mandated split lead the way for the creation of new subsidiaries, including SBC Communications (which adopted the AT&T name) and BellSouth.
Although the companies were ordered to separate, they ran a joint venture from 2000 to 2007 called Cingular Wireless, which took over Cellular One — Puerto Rico’s first wireless carrier founded in 1986 when the service was first introduced to the island.
Cingular became wholly owned by AT&T (the former SBC Communications) in December 2006 after its acquisition of BellSouth.
The AT&T name was also associated with another defunct carrier — SunCom Wireless — that served Puerto Rico from 1999 to 2008, when T-Mobile USA bought it for $2.4 billion.
In 2011, AT&T announced its intentions to buy T-Mobile USA from its parent, Deutsche Telekom. But the deal fell through after staunch opposition from the government, competitors and consumers.