Verizon Wireless brings 3G to more cities

Nation's largest wireless carrier says it's leading the race to cover the United States with a third-generation network.

Verizon Wireless on Monday plans to make its wireless broadband service available in 11 more cities, an expansion the carrier claims will dwarf its competitors.

The expansion to cities including New York, Atlanta and Los Angeles is part of an estimated $1 billion that the company plans to spend through 2005 on BroadbandAccess, its wireless broadband service for businesses. The $80-a-month service uses one of three active third-generation cell phone networks in the United States.

Meanwhile, the nation's largest cell phone carrier also intends to make available a lower-price consumer service sometime next year that uses the same high-speed network. The company will sell some handsets to be "quietly" tested by consumers sometime this year, Verizon executives said on Wednesday.

"There is a clear demand for these speeds in the small, medium and large market," Verizon Wireless Chief Executive Denny Strigl said. "For now, this is about extending our lead in the high-speed space."

U.S. cell phone carriers have spent years and billions of dollars building higher-speed networks to increase their capacity for voice calls. Plus, they hope new services will bring in additional revenue.

With the expansion, Verizon becomes the most widely installed of these third-generation cell phone networks, which can provide download speeds between 300kbps (kilobits per second) and 500kbps. AT&T Wireless' high-speed network, which is available in six cities, offers speeds between 220kbps and 320kbps. Nextel Communications has a much faster wireless broadband service than either of the two, but it's available only in a handful of cities.

The new broadband services are facing stiff competition from providers of Wi-Fi, a much faster, but short-ranged, wireless network. One of the first battlegrounds between the two technologies could be in Philadelphia, where city officials may introduce a citywide Wi-Fi network by 2006 that will be free to use. Philadelphia is also one of the cities where Verizon Wireless will make available BroadbandAccess on Monday.

"Wi-Fi is good for stationary locations," said Verizon Wireless Chief Technical Officer Dick Lynch. "It's got a long way to go before it can be a mobility type service."

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