Cingular Wireless said yesterday it is launching a new flavor of high-speed wireless in three cities, including Seattle, making it the first...

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Cingular Wireless said yesterday it is launching a new flavor of high-speed wireless in three cities, including Seattle, making it the first carrier in the world to do so commercially.

But for now, all Cingular has is bragging rights because it has not begun selling phones or laptop cards to lure subscribers to the new network.

The announcement comes as U.S. wireless carriers scramble to roll out next-generation data services. The race has sped up in the past year as Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel blanketed major markets in the U.S. with high-speed networks known in the trade as 3G, for third-generation wireless services. Those efforts allowed the two to surpass Cingular, the largest U.S. carrier with more than 50 million subscribers.

Yesterday, however, network equipment vendors issued releases that Cingular’s new networks were up and running in Seattle and Phoenix using Lucent Technologies and in the Dallas/Fort Worth area using Ericsson equipment.

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Cingular plans to have the network in up to 20 markets by year’s end, which is also when it would make enabled phones and cards available to consumers. Cingular expects to have 100 markets in 2006.

The high-speed networks allow subscribers to quickly view e-mail, download photos and search the Web. Carriers have started offering these services to generate revenue as the market for voice calls matures.

The new Cingular network is called HSDPA (high-speed downlink packet access) and is faster than earlier 3G technology. It offers speeds that average 400 to 700 kilobits per second with a maximum speed over 1 megabit, or the equivalent of cable modem service.

Cingular’s next generation


Cingular Wireless is rolling out its fastest-speed network in three markets. The speed is comparable to cable modem connections. Here’s a guide to faster data connections on the wireless GSM platform.

Second generation

GPRS, general packet radio service, 35 kilobits per second

Post-second generation

EDGE, enhanced data rates for global evolution, 120 Kbps

Third generation

UMTS, universal mobile telecommunications system, 220 to 320 Kbps

Post-third generation

HSDPA, high-speed downlink packet access, 400 to 700 Kbps

HSDPA is slightly faster than UMTS (universal mobile telecommunications system), which other carriers using the same GSM technology platform as Cingular have rolled out. Those carriers, largely in Europe, are currently in trials to deploy HSDPA.

Cingular leapfrogged to the faster speed because it more closely matches the 3G speeds offered by Sprint Nextel and Verizon Wireless.

When Cingular acquired Redmond-based AT&T Wireless a year ago, it acquired six UMTS markets: Seattle, Phoenix, Dallas, Detroit, San Francisco and San Diego. But Cingular did not market the service, so subscriber levels were low.

Those who did subscribe will now be using the new HSDPA network, although at the slower UMTS speeds. In the Seattle market, the new network will reach Spanaway to the south, Everett to the north and Redmond and the Issaquah foothills to the east.

Lisa Pierce, an analyst with Forrester Research, estimated that the faster networks will generate $1.5 billion in sales in the U.S. by 2006.

“It’s great that it’s finally happening,” Pierce said of the announcement. The next necessary development, she said, will be to get the service in a lot of markets and to attract more subscribers.

Separately, Atlanta-based Cingular, a joint venture between SBC and BellSouth, is scheduled to report some financial information today.

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