AT&T launches high-speed 3G service in Columbus

AT&T Inc. has launched its high-speed wireless broadband service, known as 3G, in Columbus.

The company unveiled the technology upgrade Monday before a gathering of local community and business leaders at the Columbus Convention and Trade Center on Front Avenue.

"The city of Columbus is experiencing impressive growth, and we are growing our local network to meet this increased demand for high-quality wireless service," said Steve Sitton, president of AT&T's wireless operations in the Southeast.

The telecom said it has upgraded 40 existing cell sites throughout the Columbus market in recent months and plans to add 12 new sites in Columbus and Fort Benning before the end of the year.

The 3G technology, which has been in the Atlanta market about 18 months, allows consumers and businesses to surf the wireless Internet via phone or laptop computer at much higher speeds than the company's typical Edge Internet service.

Features of 3G include sharing live video during a wireless call and access to national audio and video content such as sportscasts and weather radar.

The company's video offerings include clips and broadcasts from CNN, Fox News, ABC Mobile, CBS Mobile, NBC, ESPN, The Weather Channel, MTV, VH1, Comedy Central and HBO Mobile.

AT&T says it has invested nearly $125 million into its Georgia network this year and nearly $1.5 billion total over the last three years.

The high-speed 3G service is now available in 280 U.S. metropolitan areas, with plans to add 70 more cities by the end of this year.

Columbus is the third city to receive 3G aside from Atlanta and Athens. Next on the launch list is Savannah, Ga., although no date was given for that city's rollout.

"At AT&T, our mission is to connect people where they live and work and do it better than anyone else," said Sylvia Anderson, president of the firm's Georgia operation.

There are also plans to open a fourth store in the Columbus market, Sitton said. The company is negotiating for property to open a large store that will allow customers to demonstrate products and services, he said. Details on the location of the store should be available within two weeks.

AT&T's prime competitor, Verizon Wireless, began offering its own high-speed wireless broadband service in the fall of 2006.