Following close on the heels of a new Verizon Wireless network in Seattle, Sprint PCS said yesterday its so-called 3G network will be available...

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Following close on the heels of a new Verizon Wireless network in Seattle, Sprint PCS said yesterday its so-called 3G network will be available here by the end of the month.

The Overland Park, Kan.-based company said it will start rolling out the service at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, with Seattle’s commercial core following within 30 to 45 days. It expects to push into the suburbs and outlying areas by the end of the year, said Sprint spokesman Mike Brennan.

The network called 3G — short for third generation — offers much higher data speeds than current cellular networks and closely matches the speed of residential DSL service that phone companies provide.

Business users are expected to be the first to adopt the service via a laptop card. In time, Sprint is expected to offer phones on the 3G network.

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The technology is relatively new to the United States, with Verizon Wireless serving about 50 markets and Cingular Wireless serving six, including Seattle.

Cingular’s networks were originally launched by AT&T Wireless before Cingular bought the Redmond company. Cingular, which isn’t actively selling the service now, plans to relaunch later this year in Seattle and 15 to 20 other cities.

Seattle will be one of Sprint’s first markets. The carrier plans to roll out service in 36 cities by the end of the year and reach 60 markets by early 2006.

Sprint is offering two models of PC cards, the AirCard 580 by Sierra Wireless and the Merlin S620TM by Novatel Wireless. Both are about $250. It doesn’t expect to start selling 3G-enabled handsets until the fourth quarter.

Pricing for the service starts at $40 a month for 40 megabytes of data (about 16,000 e-mails) with a price cap at $90 for using more.

Sprint also offers an unlimited access plan for $80 a month, the same price as Verizon Wireless, which also offers 3G phone service for $15 a month.

Tricia Duryee: 206-464-3283 or tduryee@seattletimes.com