Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., the world’s No. 3 maker of wireless telephones, on Monday said it landed an agreement to provide telephone handsets to AT&T Wireless Services Inc., extending its push into the high end of the U.S. wireless market.
AT&T Wireless customers can use the new phone to access high-speed data services, imaging, text messaging and wireless Web services. The first product to be marketed will be the v206 model, a clam-shell shaped phone with a full-color screen and a built-in camera.
The handset costs about $400 — among the priciest on the market — at a time when many carriers offer rebates or free phones to attract customers. Since about half of the country already owns a wireless phone, carriers have slashed prices and promoted unique features, colors or ring tones to woo new subscribers.
“This is primarily focused on the high end. It’s not a main-stream product,” said Bear Stearns analyst Wojtek Uzdelewicz, who added that he was skeptical about the demand for such a phone.
AT&T Wireless, the third-largest U.S. wireless telephone company, declined to comment on the financial terms or the length of the agreement with Samsung’s Dallas-based unit, Samsung Telecommunications America.
Redmond, Washington-based AT&T Wireless said Nokia is its dominant handset provider, but it recently has added new manufacturers, such as electronics conglomerate NEC Corp., to expand its product line.
The new Samsung phone will be based on GSM technology — the wireless standard used in most of the world.
The AT&T Wireless pact will allow Samsung, a relative new-comer in the GSM market, to gain a stronger foothold in a product segment dominated by Nokia.
Samsung is “starting to get some traction in GSM,” Uzdelewicz said. “It’s more of a longer term impact, like ‘Nokia lookout. The Asian vendors are on the horizon.”‘