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By Carmen Nobel  |  Posted 2004-01-26 Print this article Print

AT&T is rumored to be courting bids from other carriers, but analysts contend that Cingulars bid makes more sense than others would. Both AT&T Wireless and Cingular run networks based on GSM (global system for mobile communications) technology, meaning a merger would make basic technical sense. Furthermore, Cingular could benefit from AT&T Wireless enterprise service expertise. When confronted about a lack of enterprise services, Cingular officials generally point to Mobitex, the companys long-standing data-only network, which was virtually the only network to function reliably on Sept. 11. 2001. But building out its next-generation GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) voice and data network has been a different story, and enterprise service offerings on this network have been few.
"AT&T is stronger on enterprise services," said Tole Hart, principal analyst at Gartner Inc. in New York. "Cingular hasnt been successful in porting [the Mobitex customers] over to the main business. Their focus has been more on the consumer side. They havent been quick to introduce new devices. Their sales focus is definitely not as strong as other companies."
Mobitex runs older models of Research in Motion Ltd.s BlackBerry pages, which are popular with enterprise customers. But all of RIMs latest models support both voice and data on newer networks, including AT&Ts. "AT&T Wireless seems to be the only carrier that is really pushing the data in the GSM camp," Abellas-Martin said. Cingular has been trying to keep up. Next month the company will announce widespread availability of the BlackBerry 6280 and 7280, which support both voice and data on the GPRS network, officials said. AT&T Wireless also offers these models. "It might help those who use Cingulars BlackBerry if AT&T expands their network," said Robert Rosen, CIO at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases in Bethesda, Md., who also is an eWEEK Corporate Partner. Still, some analysts say while a merger might simplify the industry down the road, the immediate problems might outweigh the benefits. "I dont see why bigger in this case would necessarily be better," said Phil Redman, vice president of mobile and wireless research Gartner. "It would take 18 to 24 months to sort out which licenses theyd keep and what brand they would use. … Theyre very different companies with very different management styles and very different histories. Big mergers dont necessarily work. Look at AOL Time Warner."


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