New network launched in 16 cities today.

Cingular Wireless switched on its third-generation, broadband wireless network in 16 cities today as the first step of a nationwide rollout expected to continue throughout next year.

Such high-speed networks, known as 3G, are considered crucial for wireless operators who want to sell media-rich content like full song downloads and videos. They require subscribers to buy new, advanced devices capable of connecting with the new network, which also typically contain multimedia features like music controls, high-resolution color screens and increased storage capacity.

The new Cingular network was launched in Austin, Texas; Baltimore; Boston; Chicago; Dallas; Houston; Las Vegas; Phoenix; Portland, Ore.; Salt Lake City, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Calif.; Seattle; Tacoma, Wash.; and Washington D.C.

Cingular for now is marketing the service to laptop owners who want and alternative to WiFi for their wireless Internet access. The company says it will enhance the network next year for video and audio application on mobile phones.