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Introduction & Background
Telecommunications is one of the most important industrial sectors of the United States economy. The first-ever telephone company was founded by Alexander Graham Bell in Texas in 1877. It was called ‘Bell Telephone Company.’ Later, Bell Telephone Company was renamed to American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) in 1885. The company was further re-branded and finally named ‘AT&T Corporation.’
AT&T Corporation, also known informally as MaBell, had many smaller subsidiaries, and ‘Southwestern Bell Telephone Company’ was one of them. Southwestern Bell Telephone Company was founded initially as The Missouri and Kansas Telephone Company in 1882. In the 1900s The Missouri and Kansas Telephone Company formed a merger called ‘Bell Systems.’ The merger included three other regional telephone companies, namely Southwestern Telegraph and Telephone Company, Pioneer Telephone and Telegraph Company, and The Missouri Bell Telephone Company. Each of these companies was based at a separate location. For most of the last century, the United States telecommunication sector was dominated by Bell Systems. In 1917, the merger was renamed from ‘Bell Systems’ to ‘Southwestern Bell Telephone Company.’
Southwestern Bell Telephone Company provided telecommunication services in areas of Texas-Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri. These services included mainly local telephone calling services. During the period starting from the 1950s and onwards, Southwestern Bell Telephone Company grew in size and scale of operations. It further acquired companies like Southeast Missouri Telephone Company, Southwest Telephone Company, and Ozark Central Telephone Company. Additionally, the company increased its scope of operations and started providing local telephone services in the cities of McClure, Illinois, and Kaskaskia.
In 1984, AT&T Corporation broke up into new and individual 7 Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs) and a much small-scaled AT&T. The Regional Bell Operating Companies were also known as Baby Bells. The break up came after AT&T Corporation lost a lawsuit against the United States Department of Justice. The lawsuit suspected AT&T Corporation to be funding the subsidized costs of its networks from its monopoly profits earned from its Western Electric subsidiary. This situation did not coincide with the U.S antitrust law. Thus, in 1984 AT&T Corporation lost the lawsuit and broke down into smaller independent units. One of these independent regional units included ‘Southwestern Bell Corporation.’
Southwestern Bell Corporation (SBC) was the smallest of all Baby Bells, and Southwestern Bell Telephone Company became one of its leading subsidiaries. In order to establish Southwestern Bell Corporation’s image as a national telecommunications company and target a wider market, the company was renamed in 1995 to Southwestern Bell Corporation (SBC) Communications. In addition to it, the company underwent significant changes and came up with a new slogan too.
The Reincorporation of Southwestern Bell Telephone Company
The 2000s marked the beginning of a new era of changes and multiple times reincorporation for the Southwestern Bell Telephone Company. Originally located in Missouri, Southwestern Bell Telephone Company was merged with Southwestern Bell Texas, Inc., in 2001. This merger led to the permanent close down of the Southwestern Bell Telephone Company in Missouri. After the close-down, Southwestern Bell Texas, Inc., was reincorporated as Southwestern Bell Telephone L.P. The reincorporated version of the telephone company was based in Texas only and was established as a limited partnership company.
However, this reincorporation did not last long, and Southwestern Bell Telephone L.P. was merged with a Missouri based unit called SWBT, Inc. in June 2007. This reincorporation again caused the Texas-based Southwestern Bell Telephone L.P. to shut down permanently.
After SWBT, Inc. started operations in June 2007, it acquired the name Southwestern Bell Telephone Company once again. Hence, Southwestern Bell Telephone company was finally relaunched with the same name and the same resident state. In its final attempt of reincorporation and other corporate changes, Southwestern Bell Telephone Company was relocated to Delaware from Missouri.
When it comes to branding and positioning itself among the customers’ minds, Southwestern Bell Telephone Company branded itself as ‘Southwestern Bell’ until the 1990s. Since 1999 the company started branding itself as part of the SBC Global Network. However, it made further changes to the logo and other branding icons of its company in 2001, and since then, the company is branded as SBC Southwestern Bell. In later part of the 2000s decade, the company got the d/b/a names approved for its subsidiaries and started using them officially in public directories.
As for the small-scaled AT&T, which was also formed as a result of the breakdown of AT&T Corporation, it was purchased by SBC Communications and rebranded as AT&T, Inc., in 2005 by the SBC Communications Company. Later both the companies were merged and now are known as AT&T. Currently, the AT&T Company has subsidiaries in 6 cities. Each of them has a d/b/a name of their own with a collective name ‘AT&T Southwest.’
As of today, the company operates as a subsidiary of the re-branded AT&T, Inc., and offers many other services alongside local telephone calls. These include the provision of wireless telecommunication and equipment, mobile communication and messaging, web solutions, calling cards, shared web hosting, cable television, dial-up internet access, and directory advertising and publishing. It has an estimated sales revenue of $9.11 billion and consists of over 60,000 employees working in its operational sites across the United States of America. The company’s official website is https://about.att.com/pages/corporate_profile, and its CEO’s name is Mark Keiffer.
To sum it up, in its 138 years of conception and operation, Southwest Bell Telephone Company has been through a lot of changes and has been reincorporated multiple times. All of this was done by the company’s management in order to position the company in the eyes of users at a higher pedestal. Additionally, the grand repositioning and relaunching of the company time and again was also done as an attempt of creating a competitive image in the eyes of other telecommunication networks placing Southwestern Bell at a competitive point. However, multiple attempts at rebranding and relocation could only do half the job. The rest half job of coming across as the United States number one telecommunications company lay solely on the company’s performance.