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AT&T completes 3G upgrades in NYC

Scrambling to improve its 3G reception in certain major U.S. cities, AT&T has finished an upgrade to its wireless network in New York City and notes better service over the last six months.

Hoping to stem the tide of dropped calls and slow downloads for its mobile customers, AT&T said Monday that it has completed a project to upgrade and improve its 3G service in New York City.

AT&T's upgrade has devoted more space on its airwaves to the company's 3G coverage, specifically in Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens. As a result of the upgrade, the company said it expects customers in these areas to see better 3G wireless voice and data performance, especially during peak hours. AT&T added that it's already witnessed an improvement in service over the past six months.

Specifically, the company said it added several new layers of frequency, also known as "carriers," to better manage available spectrum space and boost 3G capacity. The enhancements encompass almost all of the cell sites in Manhattan and in areas as needed throughout the other boroughs.

Though this marks the completion of one project in New York City, AT&T told CNET that it's not necessarily done with its network in the area and is always working on improvements. A similar upgrade in San Francisco is still ongoing, noted AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel, according to the Associated Press.

The effort is part of AT&T's promise to improve its 3G networks for users of the Apple iPhone and other mobile phones in major cities. Especially in places such as New York and San Francisco, disgruntled customers have complained of dropped calls, poor reception, and slow Internet access. Earlier this year, the company said it would spend between $18 billion and $19 billion to upgrade its network throughout 2010.

As mobile phones continue to find more users hungry for data, carriers including AT&T have struggled to handle the demand. The iPhone is particular has been a double-edged sword for the company, helping it capture more customers and sales but straining its 3G network, especially in heavily populated urban areas. The company has said that wireless data on its network has shot up more than 5,000 percent over the past three years.

Customers and critics alike have also expressed concerns over whether AT&T can handle the surge of new iPhone 4 devices hitting its airwaves. In just the first three days, Apple sold more than 1.7 million units of that new model. And following some preordering glitches, AT&T on Tuesday finally put the iPhone 4 up for sale at its retail outlets, where demand has been heavy and stores have been running out of stock.

AT&T's new pricing scheme is yet another way the company is trying to improve network coverage--by limiting the amount of data its users consume. Earlier this month, AT&T jettisoned its unlimited data plan, replacing it with two different tiers that restrict customers to a specific amount of data per month and charging them extra if they go over their quota.