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Cingular Wireless LLC last week announced plans to buy AT&T Wireless Services Inc., following years of rumors and an 11th-hour bidding battle with Vodafone Group PLC.

Cingular, a joint venture between San Antonio-based SBC Communications Inc. and Atlanta-based BellSouth Corp., will pay some $41 billion in an all-cash deal that is expected to close by the end of the year if approved by shareholders and federal regulators. The new company will retain Cingular’s name and its Atlanta headquarters, as well as its current CEO, Stan Sigman.

If the merger happens, it would create the largest carrier in the United States, surpassing Verizon Wireless, based in Bedminster, N.J. As of last week, the combination of Cingular and AT&T Wireless would have 46 million customers and annual revenues exceeding $32 billion, as well as coverage in 97 of the top 100 markets.

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