AT&T (T) - Get Report has a big old-fashioned 4G wireless equipment bakeoff in the works, and it's looking like Ericsson (ERIC) - Get Report may walk off with the blue ribbon, if speculation is correct.
It is still early in the decision process, but AT&T is apparently narrowing down its list, according to analysts' chatter. The main negotiations seem to be centered on China-based
proposals and AT&T's efforts to exact some price cuts from Ericsson, according to analysts.
The expected decision date is early June. And when the gavel comes down, Ericsson probably will be named the primary supplier to the long-term evolution (LTE) wireless network upgrades, say analysts. AT&T declined to comment.
"It would not be too surprising if Ericsson won the whole deal," Telecom Pragmatics analyst Sam Greenholtz wrote on
This would add to Ericsson's expanding presence in the U.S. LTE market, the firm having
last year. The so-called win, however, won't be cheap after AT&T hammers Ericsson down on price concessions, according to Wall Street analysts.
The big loser in this scenario would be
, which is expected to be relegated to a secondary supplier status. This would be yet another major setback for Alcatel-Lucent, at one time the dominant wireless infrastructure supplier to the U.S. telcos.
The contract is expected to be worth billions and be spread over several years, but initial orders could still be more than a year away.
Verizon has a one-year jump on AT&T and expects to have LTE available in some 30 cities by the end of next year.