ATandT Nears Finish of 3G Mobile Network

The nation's largest carrier aims for 350 U.S. markets by the end of the year.

AT&T plans to complete its third-generation mobile broadband network by the end of 2008, adding six markets to finish the national footprint of High-Speed Uplink Packet Access technology. When completed, the network will be available in 350 U.S. markets.

According to a May 21 announcement by AT&T, the six markets include San Jose, Calif.; San Francisco; Houston; San Antonio; Austin, Texas; and Tulsa, Okla.

With the addition of HSUPA technology, which complements the company's existing HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access) technology, AT&T 3G users will have access to uplink speeds of between 500-800K bps. The new upload speeds work with AT&T's 3G download capabilities, currently offering up to 1.4M bps across all markets for customers who have capable devices, such as AT&T's LaptopConnect service for wireless modems.

"The ability to quickly upload large files from a laptop is no longer a luxury-it's a necessity," Kris Rinne, senior vice president of architecture and planning for AT&T's wireless operations, said in a statement. "By fully deploying HSUPA across our 3G footprint, we not only meet the current needs of our customers but also lay the path for our continued evolution to even faster wireless broadband capabilities."

The AT&T announcement comes just a week after Sprint declared May 15 that its XOHM 3G mobile broadband network had cleared testing and industry standards. Sprint plans to begin service in the Washington-Baltimore region by the end of 2008. Sprint's WiMax network is a rival to AT&T's and Verizon Wireless' LTE (Long-Term Evolution) technology.

XOHM President Barry West stirred the competitive pot by claiming that Sprint has created a proven WiMax ecosystem that can "deliver this new technology to the marketplace well ahead of any feasible alternative."

AT&T said in its announcement the company has invested more than $20 billion in network improvements and investments since 2005. AT&T recently turned off its older TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access) network, allowing the company to reuse its 850MHz spectrum to expand its 3G market.