AT&T Wireless hits Broadway

The carrier on Tuesday will launch high-speed wireless Web services in New York, a few months after competitors.

AT&T Wireless on Tuesday plans to begin selling high-speed wireless Web services in the New York metropolitan area, a spokeswoman said.

The carrier plans to offer high-speed Web services on phones and laptops in the five New York boroughs, northern New Jersey and southern Westchester County, a spokeswoman said. To get the service, customers will have to buy any number of GSM/GPRS phones that AT&T Wireless sells, which range in price from $80 to $300.

Cingular Wireless, T-Mobile, Sprint PCS, Nextel Communications and Verizon Wireless already sell wireless Web access in the Big Apple and environs.

All U.S. cell phone carriers are offering wireless Web services to make up for profits being lost because the price of cell phone calls keep dropping. The move to upgrade cell phone networks to offer wireless Internet access has been costly. For example, AT&T Wireless said it will spend nearly $5 billion on network improvements this year alone.

But the wireless Web has been very slow to take off in the United States. An estimated nine million of the nation's 140 million cell phone users are surfing the wireless Web this year, according to most industry estimates. In most European countries, nearly every cell phone dialer uses the wireless Web dozens of times a day to exchange e-mails.

AT&T Wireless on Monday also said it has completed building a wireless Web network using a phone standard called General Packet Radio Service (GPRS), which creates download speeds that average between 20 and 40kbps. The carrier has finished upgrading its telephone network to include the world's most popular telephone standard, Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM), which doubles voice-calling capacity, a spokeswoman said.

T-Mobile finished building its GSM/GPRS network last November. Sprint PCS just launched its nationwide high-speed Web service two months ago. Both Verizon Wireless and Cingular Wireless already offer wireless Web subscriptions. Each expects to finish building a high-speed Web network by year's end.