AT&T Moves to Dallas

High-quality videoconferencing is the bright new hope for cutting down on air travel, but it apparently came too late for AT&T, which is moving its corporate headquarters to Dallas to be closer to the third-largest airport in the U.S.

The carrier, which offers residential wireline service in 22 states as well as a cellular network nationwide and operations in 160 countries, has been based in San Antonio, Texas, since 1992. The move should be completed by the end of the year and will involve about 700 of the carrier's 6,000 San Antonio workers, according to the company. AT&T has 310,070 employees worldwide.

One reason the company cited for the move, announced Friday, was the need to be close to its suppliers and other telecommunications vendors. There are about 1,300 such companies in the Dallas area, with approximately 45,000 employees, AT&T said. They include Alcatel-Lucent, Nortel Networks, Cisco Systems, Research In Motion and Samsung Electronics. Dallas is about 275 miles north of San Antonio.

But AT&T also cited the hope that air travel to and from Dallas will be more convenient and cost effective. Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport has nonstop service to 35 international and 133 U.S. destinations, and Dallas also has another airport, Love Field, the company said. Good access to air transportation is critical as the airline industry consolidates, according to AT&T.

Some of the same telecommunications companies AT&T is cozying up with, particularly Cisco, have promoted network-based meetings and collaboration as a cure for costly and polluting air travel. Cisco said recently its employees had avoided 17,339 trips, by air and other forms of transportation, using the company's own TelePresence technology since it was introduced in late 2006. AT&T offers Cisco's TelePresence as a managed service.

San Antonio was the home base of Southwestern Bell, one of the regional phone companies that was spun off from AT&T under a 1984 divestiture agreement that split up the national carrier. Southwestern Bell, later renamed SBC Communications, expanded by acquiring Pacific Telesis Group and two other regional operators. In 2005, SBC bought AT&T and assumed its name.

The company's Telecom Operations group, which runs its regional business and residential wireline services in the U.S., will stay in San Antonio. AT&T Mobility, formerly Cingular, will remain based in Atlanta. The company's Global Business Services group and AT&T Labs will stay in New Jersey, and St. Louis will remain the home of AT&T's Directory operations.

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