AT&T 3G: So What?

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Everyone is in a tizzy about the launch of the AT&T Wireless 3G service in four cities. San Francisco being one of them, a ploy perhaps to get the tech press frothing over the potential of the technology. Regardless, I think this is much ado about nothing! On this one I am listening to Legg Mason analysts Timm Bechler & Joshua Baylin.

“The only two handsets currently available for the AT&T service are the Motorola A845 ($299.99) and the Nokia 6651($299.99), both in our view phones that are unlikely to attract much attention,” they write in their morning note. I concur, because often time we underestimate the power of a good looking phone.

Sony Ericsson T610 maynot be a great handset but it sold well because it looked cool and the form factor was right! One should be more hopeful about Novatel Wireless which along with Lucent developed a PC-card modem, that will sell for about $150 with rebate. Legg Mason guys seem to agree and write, “Given that AT&T Wireless will likely be acquired by Cingular, we don’t believe that AT&T is putting much effort behind this release, as indicated in part from its handset offerings. With 3G service in six markets by the end of the year, this move should have limited impact on Motorola and Nokia, but could provide some upside to Novatel Wireless.” Given that Novatel is selling 2.5G modems and will be pushing 3G modems for other networks, I believe they might be real winners in quest for WAN-roaming-access.

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I believe AT&T Wireless is only doing this to fulfill their contractual obligations to DoCoMo to deploy a 3G network or face a penalty. Anyone else remember this?

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