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Sierra deals AT&T its modem card

Modem maker Sierra Wireless says it will begin shipping a wireless modem to AT&T Wireless, after the company had earlier denied approval for the product.

Modem maker Sierra Wireless said Wednesday that it will begin shipping a wireless modem to AT&T Wireless, after the company had earlier denied approval for the product.

The deal reached between the two companies, announced Wednesday, calls for Sierra Wireless to sell AT&T Wireless about $6.5 million worth of modem cards called the AirCard 710. Sierra Wireless intends to deliver the modems meant for laptops or PDAs (personal digital assistants) by the end of the third quarter.

AT&T Wireless originally planned to buy about $30 million worth of the cards, according to terms of a deal announced last January. The card works on AT&T Wireless' brand-new wireless networks in about 24 cities, which promise wireless Web surfing and downloads at speeds comparable to a dial-up Internet provider.

Cingular Wireless and VoiceStream Wireless are building wireless telephone networks based on the same cell phone equipment standards as AT&T Wireless.

But on June 4, the Canadian wireless modem maker announced that the AirCard 710 hadn't yet been approved by AT&T Wireless, despite getting every other industry approval needed.

David Sutcliffe, Sierra Wireless chief executive, said Wednesday that he's still unsure why the card wasn't granted approval at the time, and didn't specify why the agreement called for fewer cards. A spokesman for AT&T Wireless could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Because there will be fewer cards sold to AT&T Wireless than originally planned, Sutcliffe said it's likely that the price per card charged to customers will be higher than originally thought.

AT&T Wireless already sells a similar modem card, made by Novatel Wireless.