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AT&T upgrades 3G as iPhone waits in the wings

Apple's U.S. mobile carrier is steadily improving its 3G capability. Steve Jobs must like that.

Update at 8:35 a.m. PDT: More details have been added throughout.

For some reason, this hasn't drawn a ton of attention. But AT&T is edging closer to completing a 3G upgrade just in time in for the rumored release of a 3G iPhone next month.

On Wednesday, the company announced that it is only six cities away from reaching its goal of faster 3G uploads in 275 cities. AT&T has already deployed faster 3G download technology in these cities, and by the end of June, these markets will also have the faster upload speeds using a technology called HSUPA, or High Speed Uplink Packet Access. This means that AT&T wireless data subscribers will be able to get downloads of 1.4 megabits per second and uploads of between 500 kilobits per second and 800 kilobits per second.

But AT&T isn't stopping with 275 markets. By year's end, it expects to reach 350 cities with these faster upload and download speeds. And as future releases of the HSPA (High Speed Packet Access) 3G wireless technology become available, even faster speeds are expected in 2009.

AT&T has been adding new 3G handsets to its retail lineup to take advantage of the new supercharged network. The company, which is Apple's U.S. mobile carrier, had this to say:

"Equally as important as the network is the device through which a customer experiences it. AT&T's handset portfolio in company-owned stores is more than 75 percent 3G-capable--and will be even more enticing with the addition of more 3G-enabled smartphones in the summer and fall of 2008. Additionally, AT&T also has the most compelling set of 3G services, such as AT&T Video ShareSM, which allows users to share live video over wireless phones while on a voice call."

No mention of the iPhone in AT&T's press release, but that's going to be Steve Jobs' task at the company's Worldwide Developers Conference in a few weeks--or at least that's the rumor.

CNET's Marguerite Reardon contributed to this report.