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Verizon Wireless adds 16 New York cell sites

Carrier says its service improvements have nothing to do with its recent announcement that the iPhone is coming to its network.

Verizon Wireless is beefing up its service in and around New York City.

The carrier announced today that it has added 16 new sites around the Big Apple, including one in the city. Verizon customers in Yonkers, Bronxville, and other locations can also take advantage of the improved service. The cell sites will provide better access to the company's 3G network, Verizon said.

"It is important for our customers to know that we are also committed to holding our position as the most reliable 3G network in the nation," Verizon's New York Metro region president, Pat Devlin, said in a statement. "As it stands now, the 3G network is what most of our customers are using now."

The timing of Verizon's service improvements may lead some to speculate that it's related to yesterday's announcement of the iPhone finally being made available on the carrier's network. The smartphone is scheduled to launch on February 10, and could pelt Verizon's network with heavy calling and data usage.

However, Verizon isn't so quick to admit that. A company spokesperson told CNET in an e-mail that Verizon doesn't "add cell sites based on any one factor, but on overall great engineering, planning, and forecasting." He went on to say that "new cell sites add both coverage and capacity, and ensure we are always ahead of the network needs of our current and future customers."

Even if the cell site additions have nothing to do with the iPhone, the Verizon spokesperson did bring up criticism about AT&T's network.

"I would note, though, that AT&T has had the loudest waves of protests from their customers in two specific areas of the country: New York and San Francisco," the spokesperson said.

Verizon added several new cell sites in San Francisco last month.

As Verizon points out, AT&T had been taking heavy criticism from customers for poor service, including dropped calls and lagging 3G speeds in New York and San Francisco, as well as other areas around the U.S. But those complaints didn't fall on deaf ears, and prompted the company to invest heavily in its network in 2010.

During its fourth-quarter 2009 earnings call last January, AT&T said that it planned to spend between $18 billion and $19 billion in 2010 to improve wireless service around the country. The carrier followed that up with an announcement in June, saying that it had completed its 3G upgrade in New York City.