The Wall Street Journal is reporting today that AT&T is considering an expansion into the European market, as part of a potentially risky attempt to gain a competitive advantage overseas. Sources close to the company told the Journal that discussions about a possible acquisition of a European carrier are still in their nascent phase, and that a deal could be announced before the end of the year, if it happens at all.

Those in favor of a shift to Europe argue that AT&T would be able to quickly upgrade network technology and introduce more profitable pricing schemes, giving it more room for growth than it currently has in the US. European carriers have been slow to roll out 4G networks, and still largely rely on text and voice call fees, rather than the data-centric plans most US providers have introduced. The risk, however, is that AT&T would have to contend with a more competitive market, while operating within an entirely different set of industry regulations.

It's not clear if AT&T's executives have already entered discussions about acquiring a European carrier, but the Journal's sources say Dutch company Royal KPN NV and the UK's Everything Everywhere "are on AT&T's radar." The provider has also singled out Germany as a potential market, sources said.