Verizon rolls out faster 3G

Verizon Wireless Inc. on Thursday unveiled its first deployments of a faster mobile broadband service that multiplies speeds upstream to the Internet.

The carrier announced five areas where Revision A of its EV-DO (Evolution-Data Optimized) technology is commercially available. Verizon already has EV-DO in places across the country, but in a version that offers upload speed of less than 100K bps (bits per second). Revision A delivers between 300K bps and 400K bps upstream, according to Verizon. Downstream speed goes up with the new version, too, but less dramatically: Verizon says 450-800K bps, versus about 400-700K bps.

EV-DO is one of two main families of 3G technology, going up against WCDMA (Wideband CDMA), which is being adopted in increasingly fast iterations by carriers that have used the popular GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) cell-phone system. Both are among a proliferation of emerging wireless technologies, including Wi-Fi and WiMax, that are expected to come in handy for users in different situations. But mobile operators in the U.S. and most other countries are still working on getting users to adopt the new services in large numbers.

Verizon's network has the new technology in parts of Massachusetts, including Boston and its suburbs; Chicago, Gary, Indiana, and suburbs; Salt Lake City and other cities in Utah; the Richmond and Hampton Roads, Virginia, areas; and throughout the broadband coverage area in Florida.

To take advantage of the new speed, which is offered as part of the carrier's existing BroadbandAccess service, subscribers will need compatible devices, two of which will go on sale Friday on Verizon's Web site. The company will be selling the USB720 modem, which plugs into a PC via a USB interface, and the AirCard 595, which slides into the PC Card slot on a notebook. Both are available immediately through Verizon's business sales channels.

Verizon is the biggest U.S. carrier with EV-DO, but rival Sprint Nextel Corp. is farther along in upgrading to the new, faster version. Sprint said Tuesday it can reach 95 million people in 24 major markets with Revision A. Sprint first rolled out the new technology in October and most recently added South Florida, Portland, Oregon and Puerto Rico to its coverage area. There are several Revision A client devices available for Sprint's network, including three PC Cards and a USB modem, as well as standalone modems and a Sony Corp. notebook.

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