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AT&T to expand 3G wireless network

Company plans to widen its 3G footprint and upgrade the network to give users a boost in upload speeds.

AT&T said Wednesday that it's expanding its third-generation wireless broadband footprint and completing the upgrade of its network to the fastest 3G technology available.

The company is expanding its current 3G network to cover more than 80 additional cities in the U.S. this year. The new network, which will add 1,500 new cell sites, will put AT&T's 3G network in nearly 350 U.S. markets, including the top 100 markets, by the end of 2008.

AT&T also plans to upgrade its 3G network to a technology called HSUPA, or High Speed Uplink Packet Access, to provide Internet upload speeds that range from 500 kilobits per second to 800Kbps. The faster uplink speeds will be particularly useful for AT&T's wireless laptop customers. The speed increase will allow them to access large files from the Internet more quickly and upload bandwidth-intensive content such as videos.

AT&T said the deployment of HSUPA, which should be completed by the middle of the year, is the next step in the evolution of its 3G network. And the company believes that it will help pave the way for it to build a 4G network in the future.

"Fast wireless broadband is the foundation for a whole range of new and emerging applications that our customers are adopting, including everything from social networking to sending live video and large business files," Ralph de la Vega, CEO of AT&T's wireless unit, said in a statement. "With these aggressive initiatives, we're expanding the scope and the speed of our 3G capabilities. We're also planning for the future by establishing a clear path to a 4G network that will meet the needs of our customers for years to come."