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

The selection of the two suppliers paves the way for AT&T’s planned field trials of LTE technology later this year, with commercial deployment scheduled to begin in 2011.

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

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 in many cases as it deploys the next-generation technology.

LTE, or Long-Term Evolution, is the next generation of the existing GSM/UMTS mobile broadband technology platform that powers the AT&T 3G network today.

As part of the agreements, AT&T 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.

AT&T’s Domain Supplier program, launched last September, facilitates a more collaborative relationship with its equipment and software suppliers.

The evolution to LTE is part of AT&T’s ongoing efforts to innovate and invest in mobile broadband. AT&T today serves twice the number of smartphone customers as its nearest competitor, and this smartphone leadership has resulted in mobile broadband traffic that has grown more than 5,000 percent over the past three years.

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.

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