Clock Ticks on AT&T Wireless 3G Obligations

In 2000, NTT DoCoMo paid $6 billion for a 16 percent stake in AT&T Wireless. As a condition of the Japanese telecom's investment, AT&T wireless agreed to launch third-generation mobile services in 13 of the top 50 U.S. markets by June of 2004.

DoCoMo hoped to win new users for its i-mode mobile phone platform in the United States. But when the economy soured the pact was recast to cut the number of cities to four and extend the timeline six months.

In return for its partner's concessions, AT&T Wireless pledged to meet the revised targets or repay DoCoMo's entire investment. The clause takes on new importance as AT&T Wireless announced yesterday that it will sell to Cingular for $41 billion cash.

Provided it passes muster with regulators and shareholders, the blockbuster merger will close just before AT&T Wireless's 3G deadline.

"(The 3G commitment) is absolutely still in effect and it is something we don't intend to trigger," AT&T Wireless spokesman Peter Rowe told

Base stations and other advanced network gear were ordered from Nortel and Ericsson for the project in July, AT&T Wireless said. Aside from that, details of the plan are hazy.

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