The Redmond, Wash.-based wireless carrier said Wednesday that it is buying base stations and other third-generation (3G) network equipment from Ericsson and Nortel Networks. The base stations are based on Universal Mobile Telecommunications Service (UMTS), an emerging cellular network standard also known as wideband code-division multiple access (W-CDMA).
The financial terms of the contracts were not disclosed.
"These agreements position us to meet our DoCoMo commitments on time and on budget," said Eric Updyke, an AT&T Wireless vice president.
The U.S. carrier is facing a closing date of Dec. 31, 2004, to launch a high-speed 3G commercial service in four U.S. cities. If it does not meet the deadline, it will have to return about $6.2 billion of part-owner and partner NTT DoCoMo's investment in the company.
Standards bodies define 3G as delivering 384 kilobits per second of Internet access to cell phones, which is about 10 times faster than the current AT&T Wireless network.
Cell phone service providers worldwide are building such networks because they triple the capacity for cell phone calls, allowing carriers to keep pace with the growing number of minutes used for such calls. To earn back construction costs, carriers plan to offer new services like downloadable videos or Virtual Private Networks.
AT&T Wireless has so far chosen Seattle and San Francisco for its launch of what is expected to be the first commercial UMTS service in the United States, said AT&T Wireless spokesman Ritch Blasi. Two other likely candidates are San Diego and Dallas, where the carrier has an ongoing UMTS trial, he said.
NTT DoCoMo could not be immediately reached at its Japanese headquarters for comment.