Cingular Wireless, the largest US mobile carrier, launched its 3G network in 16 cities on Tuesday, becoming the first mobile network operator in the world to deploy a 3G network based on HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access) technology.

The Atlanta-based company, a joint venture between AT&T and BellSouth, said its BroadbandConnect service would be available initially in cities including Austin, Dallas, Houston, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose.

The service, which is designed to deliver broadband-style data connection to mobile users, will eventually be available to nearly 35m people in 52 communities throughout the US.

The company plans to continue to extend the network rapidly next year.

Cingular is the last of the big three US mobile operators to launch its 3G network – Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel have both rolled out 3G networks based on Qualcomm’s rival CDMA EV-DO technology.

Network operators in the US, like their counterparts in Europe and Asia, view 3G services, which include data networking, mobile TV and interactive games, as a way to boost data traffic and revenues and offset flat or declining average revenues from traditional voice calls.

“Make no mistake about it,” said Stan Sigman, Cingular’s chief executive, “wireless users want the speed and services they’ve come to expect from their wired connections.”

The Cingular move also marks an important step for the world’s GSM network operators.

HSDPA is the high-speed evolution of GSM/EDGE (Global System for Mobile Communication/Enhanced Data Rates for Global Evolution), which shares a common core network.

GSM is the world’s most popular wireless technology and is used by more than one billion people in 210 countries.

Cingular BroadbandConnect is an enhancement to the company’s nationwide EDGE network, the nation’s largest wireless high-speed data network.

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