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updated 3/21/2011 12:36:21 PM ET 2011-03-21T16:36:21

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 T-Mobile 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.

Story: AT&T-T-Mobile deal may face antitrust test

"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

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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