Cingular Steps Closer to 3G

As part of the national mobile phone carrier's expensive move to third-generation technology, Cingular will overlay a network supporting GSM over its current network.

National mobile phone carrier Cingular Wireless is making huge, expensive changes to its network in a multistep process to upgrade to third-generation technology.

The company will overlay a network that supports GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) over its current network, which supports Time Division Multiple Access.

GSM has not gained much ground in the United States but is prevelant in Europe, meaning it will be easier now for Cingular to make business plays overseas. The move to GSM is a first step in a move toward a next-generation technology called EDGE, according to officials at the Atlanta company.

Cingular has awarded contracts to three European companies. Nokia Corp., Ericsson AB and Siemens AG will produce both handsets and back-end infrastructure for the new network.

The news is disappointing for Qualcomm Corp., which created and controls Code Division Multiple Access, the competing technology that many companies in the United States have named the path of choice to third-generation networks.