AT&T: T-Mobile 3G phones will need to be replaced

March 21, 2011 By PETER SVENSSON , AP Technology Writer
This photo combination shows logos for AT&T, left, and Deutsche Telekom AG. AT&T Inc. on Sunday, March 20, 2011 said it will buy T-Mobile USA from Deutsche Telekom AG in a cash-and-stock deal valued at $39 billion, becoming the largest cellphone company in the U.S. (AP Photo)

AT&T Inc. said Monday that if its deal to buy T-Mobile USA goes through, T-Mobile subscribers with "3G" phones will need to replace those to keep their wireless broadband service working. But there will be plenty of time to do that.

Dallas-based AT&T said Sunday it had agreed to buy T-Mobile USA for $39 billion. If approved by regulators, the deal would close about a year from now.

AT&T said that some time after the closing, it plans to rearrange how T-Mobile's cell towers work. The airwaves they use for third-generation services, or 3G, will be repurposed for 4G, which is faster.

That would leave current phones without 3G. They would need to be replaced with phones that use AT&T's 3G frequencies. Ralph de la Vega, AT&T's head of wireless and consumer services, said this will happen as part of the normal phone upgrade process.

"There's nothing for them to worry about ... it will be done over time, in a way that's good for customers and good for AT&T," de la Vega said in an interview.

The whole process will take several years, he said.

AT&T shares rose 27 cents to $28.21 in midday trading Monday.

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