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Posted July 8, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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AT&T brings 3G network to region

By James Heffernan — jheffernan@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER — AT&T has brought its third-generation mobile broadband network to the Winchester area.

The network, which allows AT&T wireless customers to surf the Web and download files, including video, pictures and e-mail, at 3G speeds, now stretches from Leesburg west along Va. 7 to Winchester and from Stephens City north to Clear Brook along Interstate 81.

“We continue to make significant investments to deliver dependable, high speed wireless access in more places for Virginia consumers and business customers who need to stay connected to work, family and friends,” J. Michael Schweder, president of AT&T’s Mid-Atlantic region, says in a statement.

At a media briefing Tuesday at the AT&T store on South Pleasant Valley Road in Winchester, Colin Martin, executive director of sales for AT&T Mobility’s D.C./Northern Virginia region, showcased the company’s 3G network on the new iPhone 3G S, as well as new tools, such as AT&T Family Map, which allows users to locate a family member from a PC or mobile device, and AT&T Navigator, a GPS application that provides map updates, speech recognition, real-time traffic alerts, one-touch rerouting, daily gas prices and more.

Martin said 3G networks are up to three times faster than the previous generation, known as 2G.

“You’ll notice a big difference in the speed, but also call quality and coverage,” he said. Customers who may be receiving marginal coverage with 2G should see a significant improvement, he said.

Recently, AT&T announced plans to upgrade its 3G network to deliver even faster mobile broadband speeds. The network upgrades are slated to begin later this year and completed in 2011.

AT&T’s 3G coverage currently stops just south of Stephens City. However, the company recently made enhancements to its existing network in communities such as Strasburg, Bethel, Riverton and Dungadin Heights, and Martin said new cell sites are planned.

Edinburg-based Shentel provides wireless broadband coverage along the I-81 corridor from Harrisonburg to central Pennsylvania through its wireless affiliate, Sprint Nextel.

This year, Shentel will commit over 40 percent of its $73 million capital budget to finance the infrastructure investments needed to bring wireless voice and Internet to all of its service areas, including previously uncovered regions, the company says in a statement.

“Living in a remote area no longer means going without the latest technology,” says Shentel President and CEO Christopher French. “People can reside where they please and be assured that Shentel will do everything possible to provide them outstanding access and quality of service.”

Increasingly, mobile broadband networks are being viewed as a means of creating jobs and fueling economic growth.

In May, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine unveiled a map showing broadband availability across the commonwealth and announced the formation of an advisory council designed to help deploy resources, including funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, to areas with the greatest need.

“Affordable high-speed telecommunication services for all citizens are essential to Virginia’s success in the 21st century economy,” Kaine said.

Last week, Rep. Bob Goodlatte announced the release of $4 billion in broadband funds through ARRA. Two federal agencies — the National Telecommunications Agency and the Rural Utility Service — will begin accepting applications for the funds on July 14.

Goodlatte, R-6th, says he has been working hard to bring broadband to rural areas, like those in his home district of western Virginia.

“The Internet is an information superhighway that allows consumers and businesses in rural communities to have the same access to opportunities as those in urban areas. However if rural communities do not have the necessary high-speed ‘on-ramps’ to the Internet, these opportunities will be lost.”

1 Comment | Leave a comment

    I switched to AT&T service because it was very good in the northern parts of Shenandoah County. I bought my equipment at the store in Woodstock. I had no idea that the service would be marginal in downtown Woodstock.

    As AT&T upgrades its service in the Winchester area, I sincerely hope they will upgrade their service in my hometown. I worry that the closing of the AT&T store in Woodstock signals their disinterest in getting better service to this area.

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