AT&T announced the selection of Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson as equipment suppliers for the planned deployment of its LTE mobile broadband network.

The company is planning a first field trials of LTE later this year. Commercial deployment is scheduled to begin in 2011.

According to AT&T, after testing equipment from multiple suppliers in the field and in a lab environment, the company chose to extend existing relationships with Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson, which provide equipment for the AT&T 3G network today.

"Continued work with these two suppliers will enable AT&T not only to incorporate LTE equipment, but also to take advantage of compatibility between the suppliers’ existing 3G equipment and forthcoming LTE upgrades," states AT&T.

As part of the supplier agreements, 3G equipment delivered to AT&T by the suppliers starting this year will be easily convertible to LTE, enabling AT&T to upgrade existing equipment and software rather than install entirely new equipment.

“AT&T has a key advantage in that LTE is an evolution of the existing GSM family of technologies that powers our network and the vast majority of the world’s global wireless infrastructure today. As some competitors move away from their existing investment in niche 3G platforms, we are able to efficiently and quickly move toward LTE while enhancing our existing 3G performance and providing access to a strong ecosystem of customer devices,” said John Stankey, president and CEO of AT&T.

The company also announced that it has designated Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson as the domain suppliers for its Radio Access Network Domain. The multi-year agreement covers radio access network equipment needed to deliver LTE service. This equipment will be deployed at cell sites across AT&T’s network to enable LTE speeds and functionality. Financial terms of the supplier agreements were not disclosed.

AT&T in January announced total 2010 capital expenditures are expected to be between $18 billion and $19 billion. These plans include an increase of approximately $2 billion in wireless network and backhaul investment.

Earlier this year, AT&T upgraded 3G cell sites to HSPA 7.2 technology. Over the course of 2010 and 2011, the firm plans to combine this upgrade with enhanced fiber-optic backhaul connectivity.

AT&T wireless network investment plans for 2010 also include construction of about 2,000 new cell sites and adding new radio controllers and carriers at a pace that doubles deployment in 2009.

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