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AT&T WiMax Heading South?

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LR Mobile News Analysis
Light Reading
9/13/2007
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AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is preparing to launch WiMax services during the second quarter of 2008, Unstrung has learned from an industry source. The services will likely be in the South of the U.S. where the operator has suitable licenses for broadband wireless services.

The cellular giant is planning to deploy limited WiMax services in the 2.3 GHz band that could be used as a fixed-wireless alternative to DSL or cable offerings, the source says. AT&T is said to have its suppliers for the service lined up now.

Spokespeople for the operator aren't commenting on any potential WiMax deployments. "We would never comment on what we might or might not be doing," one representative for AT&T says.

But this wouldn't be a first. AT&T already has a limited deployment of the technology in Alaska. That initial rollout suggests that AT&T might use the technology to provide better broadband coverage in areas where it has less wireline infrastructure. (See How Close Is AT&T to WiMax?)

The operator has also been said to have been pushing vendors and the WiMAX Forum to develop fatter pipes for the technology so that it can be used for mobile TV, video, and other data-intensive applications. (See AT&T Looking at WiMax for Video.)

Nonetheless, the AT&T project appears to be quite different from Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S)'s XOHM mobile WiMax rollout, which should be up and running in April 2008. Sprint is using the technology as its next-generation replacement for existing cellular networks rather than fixed-line services. (See Sprint & Samsung in NYC WiMax Push.)

Spectrum will also be an issue for AT&T if it wants to deploy outside the South. The 22 2.3 Ghz licenses that it holds come from the BellSouth merger and only cover some of the Southern markets that operator provided service in. AT&T sold off its remaining 2.5 Ghz licenses to Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR) earlier this year. (See WiMax USA: Spectrum Crunch and AT&T Sells Spectrum to Clearwire.)

The coming 700MHz auctions could provide a way for operators to enable more wireless broadband coverage. The licenses for the analog TV bands, however, are likely to be expensive, even for the mega-operators. (See 700 MHz: The Fix Is In.)

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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