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BlackBerry/cell phone coming

Research In Motion and AT&T Wireless ink a deal that will let people make phone calls on a new version of the handheld device.

Research In Motion is developing a new version of its BlackBerry handheld device that will allow people to make phone calls over AT&T Wireless' network, under a deal the two companies announced Tuesday.

RIM's new device will come with an earpiece and microphone and will use AT&T Wireless' GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) and GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) networks.

The companies said they will announce pricing and availability details at a later date. Financial terms of the deal were not released.

RIM also announced Tuesday that it has struck a deal with Ontario, Canada-based Rogers AT&T Wireless. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

The deal means that the same device that will be used on the AT&T Wireless network in the United States will also be available in Canada, but will run on Rogers AT&T Wireless' GSM and GPRS networks.

Rogers AT&T Wireless is Canada's largest wireless voice communications provider with more than 3.4 million subscribers. AT&T owns 33 percent of the company; and Rogers Communications owns 51 percent.

Handheld device makers have been trying to expand by incorporating telecommunications features into their products.

During RIM's third-quarter earnings report in December, the company said it is working to create a similar device that will run on Nextel's network.

Nextel's network uses Motorola's iDEN technology, which enables two-way radio and wireless voice communications. On Thursday, RIM announced a licensing agreement with Motorola to use iDEN.

In May, RIM announced plans to offer a cell phone/BlackBerry combination in Europe. And Handspring's Treo, a handheld/cell phone combination, is expected to reach stores in March.

Cell phone makers have also been getting into the act from the other end. Nokia's Communicator, a mobile phone/personal organizer combination, recently surpassed Palm devices as the most popular handheld computer in Europe and is set to debut in the United States this summer.