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AT&T rivals Groupon with 'AT&T Alerts,' location-based, personalized deals alerts

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AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) is partnering with brands including Gap, Staples, Zales, Neiman Marcus, Duracell, Motorola and Discover to introduce AT&T Alerts, a free, location-based deals notification program launching nationwide.

AT&T Alerts rebrands and expands ShopAlerts, the geo-specific deals initiative the operator launched in a handful of major U.S. markets in early 2011. There is no AT&T Alerts application to download; the carrier instead leverages cell tower data to determine when a device is located within a designated "geo-fence"--i.e., a virtual perimeter around a retail store or event. AT&T adds that the service does not access the phone's GPS capabilities.

To begin receiving AT&T Alerts discounts, rewards and offers via text message, AT&T customers must first sign up for the program here or text "JOIN" to the shortcode "ATTAlerts," then customize their settings and preferences. Text messages to and from AT&T Alerts are free. Customers who sign up for the program also will receive $5 off with a $10 minimum purchase from the ATT.com site.

AT&T Alerts is currently optimized for all AT&T phones except Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone 5, although an AT&T spokesperson said the carrier plans to add iPhone compatibility in the future.

AT&T Alerts pits the carrier in direct competition with location-based digital deals services like Groupon and foursquare. Groupon presents daily bargains from retailers and restaurants in 48 countries worldwide: Groupon's mobile applications for platforms including Apple's iOS and Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android enable consumers to purchase and redeem deals, browse on-demand bargains for nearby restaurants, bars and activities, and share deals via social media. Mobile devices now generate about one-third of all transactions across the Groupon platform, and earlier this year founder and CEO Andrew Mason told investors that the company's mobile shoppers spend about twice as much as their desktop counterparts.  

Foursquare de-emphasized its location-enabled virtual check-in model this summer to focus on personalized recommendations and user interactions. At the same time, the company rolled out Promoted Updates, which spotlight deals from local merchants via the app's Explore recommendation engine. Merchants pay foursquare only when consumers check into their business, unlock a special or otherwise interact with their promotion.

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