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Cingular, T-Mobile go gear shopping

Cingular Wireless turns to Lucent to increase its network's capacity, and T-Mobile plans to sprinkle Nortel Networks 3G cell phone equipment throughout Europe.

Lucent Technologies and Nortel Networks on Wednesday announced large orders for cell phone network equipment, but the deals are likely only temporary relief from what may be another slow year for telephone network equipment sales.

Like the rest of the telecommunications industry, Nortel and Lucent have been ravaged by a slowdown in spending by cell phone carriers. Handset maker Nokia on Tuesday doused hopes for a quick recovery in 2003 when it said network equipment sales slowed in the past few months.

The value of the orders was not disclosed. They are each estimated to be "in the tens of millions of dollar range," according to one person familiar with the deals.

Lucent Technologies is supplying U.S. carrier Cingular Wireless with "thousands" of its PacketStar Multiservice Media Gateways, which are used to increase the capacity of a telephone network for voice calls and wireless Web sessions, according to a Lucent representative.

Cingular wants the gear to cut costs, not expand its coverage area. The media gateways are "designed to help make their current network more efficient and profitable while reducing their operating costs," according to Joe McCarthy, Lucent Technologies' sales vice president.

Meanwhile, Nortel Networks said European wireless heavyweight T-Mobile, the owner of T-Mobile USA, will use its equipment to build next-generation cell phone networks in several major European markets.