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AT&T shops for new partners

The pending merger of Cingular and AT&T Wireless is prompting the company to "explore all options."

The pending merger of two cell phone service providers is forcing AT&T to shop for another supplier of wireless services to resell, a company spokesman said Thursday.

AT&T currently partners with AT&T Wireless to sell unlimited night and weekend dialing on both wireless and home phones. But Cingular Wireless, which is buying AT&T Wireless, "may not want to partner with us," following the merger's close at the end of the year, AT&T spokesman Bob Nersesian said.

"Therefore, it's good to explore all options," he added.

AT&T is garnering a "high level of interest (from) several leading wireless companies to partner with," company Chief Executive David Dorman said, but he did not announce any new deals.

Representatives of Cingular and AT&T Wireless did not return calls seeking comment.

One of AT&T's potential new partners could be Sprint, which supplies the cell phones and minutes of use behind the Virgin Mobile USA cell phone service.

analyst Joe Laszlo said AT&T's move is another sign of a growing trend among large, well-known companies such as Disney and Virgin, looking to sell phone services without having to invest in network building.

Cell phone services that use Disney, ESPN and other well-known brand names are expected to launch in the near future.