AT&T's Columbus upgrades to include high-speed wireless Internet

The information superhighway looks to get a lot faster this year for AT&T cell phone customers in the Columbus area.

The Atlanta-based telecommunications firm said Thursday it will be spending more than $120 million for upgrades to its Georgia network in 2008.

That includes setting up more than 80 new cell sites statewide and offering high-speed wireless broadband Internet access in Columbus and Savannah.

For basic cell users in Columbus, the new cell sites should mean improved service for people living near Columbus Metropolitan Airport, and in the Lakebottom and Green Island neighborhoods, AT&T said.

Oulying areas and communities that will see what AT&T calls "enhanced coverage" include Fort Benning, Hogansville, Pine Mountain, Warm Springs, Waverly Hall, West Point Lake, Woodberry and Zebulon.

"We’re committed to the state of Georgia," Sylvia Anderson, AT&T Georgia president, said in a statement. "AT&T’s investments will have a positive impact on economic development at both the state and community levels, in addition to the benefits that our customers will receive."

The high-speed "3G" service will be the most dramatic upgrade. It should allow for much faster wireless Internet surfing and downloads via cell phones, personal digital assistants and laptop computers. It also will allow users to share live video while making a wireless call.

AT&T said it is launching 3G on more than 40 cell sites in Columbus and 60 sites in Savannah, while expanding it by 200 cell sites in Atlanta.

Verizon Wireless, an AT&T competitor, is the only cellular company now offering high-speed Internet access in Columbus. Verizon's service debuted here in the fall of 2006.

AT&T said its upgrades should be completed by the end of this year. At that time, it will have pumped nearly $1.5 billion over three years into wireless and wired services in Georgia, it said.

Founded in 1983 as Southwestern Bell Corp., AT&T's purchase of BellSouth was approved by the Federal Communications Commission in December 2006. The deal combined ownership of Cingular Wireless, initially a joint venture between AT&T and BellSouth.