confirmed late Tuesday that it will award some $4 billion in network upgrade contracts to
News of the big wireless service provider's decision comes just two weeks after
predicted the company would name those three telecom gear giants as partners for Cingular's latest push to lead the
wireless data business.
While the deal is certainly a positive for Ericsson and Siemens, it's seen as a major victory for Lucent, which has been largely on the sidelines in markets outside the code division multiple access, or CDMA, arena.
The big losers in the deal are
. Both vendors have been suppliers to Cingular and AT&T Wireless in the past and were considered to be in the running for Tuesday's award of universal mobile telecommunications system, or UMTS, upgrade contracts.
Cingular says it will start working on upgrades in several major markets next year, but didn't name any cities. The company is expected to target laptop users initially with wireless access cards. Cingular says the first UMTS handsets won't be available until late 2006.
Cingular, the largest U.S. cell-phone service provider, is locked in a data-networking arms race with rivals
. The company is anxious to bolster its standing by offering customers faster wireless Internet connections.
UMTS is third-generation, or 3G, gear that promises wireless users Internet connections at speeds that rival digital subscriber lines, or DSL. UMTS is a technology approach favored by many of the GSM-based carriers.
Opponents like Sprint and Verizon Wireless -- a joint venture of
-- opted to upgrade using a different brand of 3G gear earlier this year. That standard is known as evolution data only, or EV-DO.
Each player is gambling billions on wireless data in the hopes that users will continue to flock to cell phones and pay more for faster mobile Internet connections. Meanwhile, the
has pursued so-called Wi-Fi, a wireless data technology embraced by airports and coffee franchises to serve laptop-toting customers. And
remains on the fence with its data upgrade plans. The Reston, Va., walkie-talkie specialist is testing high-speed gear from closely held Flarion and also considering the EV-DO route.
The Cingular deal marks the third of three big data upgrades that Lucent has managed to secure in the U.S. Earlier this year, Lucent got a primary role with Verizon Wireless, and later won a split with Nortel to supply Sprint's plan.