AAPT selects Lucent, considers mobile float

AAPT says it will decide whether or not to float its mobile business, including Cellular One and its new CDMA network, within two months.

The telco is considering listing the mobile unit as a single business in order to raise funds for its nationwide CDMA network rollout.

AAPT said today it has selected Lucent Technologies for the supply and construction of the $450-$500 million network, but said funding arrangements are still being considered.

Tong Rogge, AAPT's chief financial officer, said AAPT was likely to fund the network through a 50-50 combination of debt and equity and is considering a number of options, including vendor financing.

He said Lucent's 100 per cent vendor financing offer was an option but "not necessarily a preferred option".

Steve Picton, AAPT's group director for strategic development, said Lucent was selected for the project after a four-month evaluation period involving rival network providers, Nortel, Motorola and Samsung. "We pushed Lucent pretty hard on this deal, but they came to the party," he said.

Lucent's agreement with AAPT includes the design and construction of the network, two years of operation and maintenance support, full migration to IP-based technology and an option to move to third generation mobile technologies further down the track.

Picton said AAPT's ability to contract for technology not yet deployed in Australia or throughout the world was a key aspect in the deal.

In addition to migrating to a full IP environment, Picton said AAPT is planning an early migration to high-speed packet data ensuring data speeds of up to 144Kbps. Customer trials of the technology are scheduled for October this year.

AAPT plans to commercially launch its CDMA network, which will span Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania, Darwin, Canberra, South Australia, and regional NSW and Victoria, by Q4 this year. At the same time, the company plans to launch a number of "location-based" services such as directory and traffic control services, Picton said.

AAPT's announcement of the selection of Lucent coincided with the news that AAPT's majority shareholder, Telecom New Zealand, has also chosen Lucent to build its CDMA network, which is expected to be launched in March 2001.

Despite reports that AAPT is also considering floating its Internet business, Rogge said the company is "not seriously considering" that at the moment.

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