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Is Cingular 3G slowing down?

With so much on its plate, Cingular may be slightly slowing the rollout of its third-generation wireless broadband service.

Cingular Wireless, the No. 1 cell phone operator in the U.S., may have scaled back its wireless broadband deployment plans, financial analysts are reporting.

A Cingular spokesman maintained on Tuesday that the operator is on pace to blanket 15 to 20 cities with what's known as 3G (third generation) cell phone technology, which creates wireless Internet connections rivaling the capacity of some wired ones, including digital subscriber lines.

But Deutsche Bank analysts Brian Modoff, Jonathan Goldberg and Vijay Doradla wrote on Tuesday that a recent check of Cingular suppliers and other sources leads them to believe Cingular is planning to add 3G to only 12 to 15 cities.

The major reason? Cingular is simply overworked right now, the analysts wrote in their assessment of the operator's apparently "more realistic" schedule. Aside from working on 3G, Cingular also is adding EDGE technology--a wireless data-transmission feature with speeds of 70kbps to 135kbps--throughout its network, and integrating all of that with AT&T Wireless' network, which Cingular has purchased.

To successfully multitask, Cingular may have to cut back on some of the more advanced 3G features it once planned, the analysts wrote.

"Opting for less advanced features in the rollout could work in favor of the carrier since it's easy to test the less complex features, giving Cingular more time to certify the basic foundations of the network," the DB analysts wrote.

If Cingular is indeed moderating its 3G rollout, it is losing ground to No. 2 operator Verizon Wireless, which is already selling advanced features such as television or videos on demand over a high-speed network covering 32 cities.

"We are past the learning curve on this," a Verizon Wireless spokesman said.