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Mobile

From Bells to bits

Several disparate events and technology shifts have wedded the telecommunications and networking industries in an unusual coupling.

Several disparate events and technology shifts have wedded the telecommunications and networking industries in an unusual coupling, driven by the explosion of Internet use. Regulatory nuances have catapulted a variety of existing and new players into new arenas--such as network access and services--to increase revenue. The following timeline showcases several significant stages of recent history.

For whom the Bells toll
1982 Splitting the Bells
In the settlement of the AT&T antitrust suit, AT&T agrees to splitting up the Bells, which creates the Baby Bells. Bells agree to equal access.
1984 Baby steps
The suit's settlement creates divestiture and equal access. Long distance customers are required to choose a carrier.e
1986 Then there were three
U.S. Sprint becomes the third major long distance competitor, taking on AT&T and MCI.
1990 End of the rainbow
Cisco rides the success of its routing technology to a public offering, underscoring an increasing reliance on networking equipment.
1996 Watershed
Telecommunications Act of 1996: Places long distance, local service, and cable service providers in direct competition, while leaving the FCC to be the lone traffic cop in the telecom market.
1996 Newfound freedom
The equipment provider side of AT&T splits off from its parent and becomes Lucent Technologies, which immediately becomes a huge voice-oriented player to be reckoned with.
1997 Backlash
SBC Communications files suit on behalf of the Baby Bells against the FCC to challenge the constitutionality of major portions of the Telco Act of 1996. The Supreme Court is considering hearing the case now.
1998 Spiffed up
Northern Telecom, a stodgy multibillion-dollar remnant of the voice equipment market, takes a leap into data communications by merging with Bay Networks. The merger marks one of the most obvious examples of the rapid changes taking place in telecom.

Brave new world
Merger mania consolidates various players in telecom, exemplified by the mammoth mergers of MCI and WorldCom and the proposed AT&T and TCI deal.

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