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3G revs up cell competition
Wireless providers up the ante on technology
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Elizabeth Irons shows off her new 3-G phone to friend Roby Hadley while making a purchase at the Statesboro AT&T store Monday. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
      The fight for cellular customers continues to heat up as the two titans in the industry vie for position to deliver the hottest innovation to hit the industry in a number of years - 3G or Third Generation cell phone service.
       With smart phones and cell phone applications all the rage, the country's two largest cellular service providers now have 3G service available to their Statesboro customers. AT&T recently brought 3G mobile broadband coverage to the Statesboro area. Verizon was already providing 3G coverage here.
       "Demand for wireless bandwidth is growing, whether it's for sharing videos and photos with friends, watching a movie, checking the latest sports score and listening to music on a phone, netbook and or other mobile device while on the go," said Camille Russo, regional manager, AT&T external and legislative affairs. "With this expansion, our customers can continue to ride the leading edge of mobile broadband with emerging devices and thousands of mobile applications."
       The importance that 3G has begun to play in the marketplace is underscored by the recent public disagreement between the countries two largest competitors. At the beginning of November, AT&T filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia asking for a temporary restraining order and a permanent injunction to stop Verizon's ads depicting AT&T's coverage map.
       Verizon modified the ads after AT&T complained about them saying its customers were "out of touch" where 3G coverage was unavailable. Those words were taken out and Verizon included a tag line saying "Voice & data services available outside 3G coverage areas" at the end of the ads.
       Verizon spokeswoman Nancy Stark said the ads are an extension of Verizon's long-standing network reliability "Can you hear me now?" campaign and the changes that were made are sufficient.
      "As to the merits of the suit, there aren't any," she said. "The ads are clearly labeled 3G coverage and they also clearly state that voice and data service is available outside the 3G coverage area."
      Squabbles aside, it is clear that consumers are enamored with the new technology and competition has made its advent that much quicker.
      "There is nothing wrong with competition," said Vince Schwager, national retail account manager for AT&T and a Statesboro resident. "We push each other to provide the latest technology to the consumer. It makes each of us better and keeps us on our toes. We each have our differences.    What the customer wants is performance, and that is what we and everyone else have to deliver."
      Schwager said that while 3G is the latest technology, 4G or fourth generation is on the way. "If you can believe it, fourth generation will take cellular service to a new level," he said. "Download speeds capable over 4G networking should be far greater than is currently available on 3G or indeed any home broadband service provided by a landline. The applications being developed for 4G are going to be incredible. It is a very exciting to be in this industry, for AT&T and everybody else."
      With almost 20,000 students at Georgia Southern University, local cell phone providers are anxious to please such a large, concentrated customer base. "We needed to have a 3G network here," Schwager said. "College students come from Atlanta and other metropolitan areas where they are used to having this service. It was a natural progression for us."
      Can you imagine walking down the street, pointing your phone towards a restaurant sign and having a review of that restaurant immediately downloaded to your phone? Another application might be pointing your phone towards an historical monument and a rendering of it appears as it might have looked before decay. Or, going to your class reunion and pointing your phone at an attendee and their Facebook or My Space page popping up.
      "The applications are going to be endless," Schwager said. "Really, the fun has just begun."