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04:29 PM

Dial 'A' For Acquisitions

Cingular is first to bid for AT&T Wireless

AT&T Wireless is up for sale, so the long-anticipated consolidation of the mobile-phone industry seems to be under way. Cingular Wireless last week bid more than $27 billion for AT&T Wireless. The potential merger would create the largest mobile-phone-service provider in the world. Both companies operate networks based on the GSM standard, and a merger would leave T-Mobile as the only GSM alternative, says Technology Business Research analyst Christopher Foster.

Customers of both companies would benefit from vastly improved coverage areas and better data services. Cingular's customers would get access to AT&T's next-generation Edge services, which promise faster download speeds than other cellular systems, and the increased power of the combined company would help develop and propagate those services more quickly.

Cingular is the first of the expected bidders for AT&T Wireless, which last week posted an $84 million net loss for its fourth quarter, an improvement over its $131 million loss for the year-ago quarter. Executives said technical problems, including a now-resolved glitchy Siebel Systems CRM deployment, contributed to the quarterly loss. For the year, AT&T turned a profit of $442 million.

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