Reuters reports that AT&T Wireless is poised to roll out its W-CDMA 3G cellular data offering in Detroit, Phoenix, San Francisco, and Seattle next week: AT&T Wireless had been saying "by the end of the year," and this leak of a near-term launch is apparently surprising. The company is only promising 200 to 300 Kbps, but it's likely that W-CDMA will offer much higher burst rates, slightly slower than 1x-EvDO, which Verizon Wireless plans to spend $1 billion in the next several months to expand throughout major markets in the U.S.
I expected a rollout in Seattle because AT&T Wireless is headquartered in this region--for the time being. The merger with Cingular will certainly result in an almost total shutdown in this area as there's no logical, only historical reasons for this geographical location. The service will require one of two phones from Nokia and Motorola to access.
As TechDirt notes, AT&T Wireless has to launch service in four cities before the end of the year to avoid a requirement to repay $6 billion to investor DoCoMo. Elsewhere, I've seen this figure and deadline rejected by certain executives involved in the transaction, but I don't believe there's been a definitive refutation. [link via TechDirt]