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12/12/2005
11:30 AM
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Broadband Beyond Lattes

It's a sad state of affairs when your wireless Internet access rests on proximity to a coffee shop or bakery.

But Wi-Fi isn't the only answer. Cell-phone companies are working to make fast Net access available from anywhere within their coverage areas using laptop-connection cards that support third-generation cellular networks.

Cingular last week revealed an upgrade to its 3G network to one based on High Speed Downlink Packet Access, a new mobile-telephony protocol that's supposed to give customers download speeds of 400 to 700 Kbps, double what it now offers and similar to DSL. Customers must buy a $100 laptop modem card and an unlimited $80 data plan.

Cingular will offer handsets that work on the network early next year. And for those who can chat and surf at once, "it's the first network in the U.S. to offer simultaneous voice and data," chief operating officer Ralph de la Vega says.

Sprint next year plans to upgrade its Power Vision network based on a wireless radio broadband data protocol, Evolution-Data Optimized, to the new, faster version of EV-DO, and expand service from 191 U.S. markets to more than 260. The upgrade will boost Sprint's service by about 100 Kbps from the current 400 to 700 Kbps.

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