AT&T Gives Broadband Subscribers Wi-Fi Gift

January 24, 2008 0

AT&T plans to soon make its nationwide Wi-Fi network free to users…provided you are one of its 10 million plus broadband subscribers…

“With the growing popularity of Wi-Fi enabled mobile devices, AT&T wanted to give its subscribers more options to access the Internet on the go, the carrier said…”

AT&T said Wednesday that it will soon offer its broadband subscribers unlimited free “Wi-Fi” access in its hot spots, as well as a new supercharged 10Mbps tier of service.

“Free Wi-Fi will be offered at more than 10,000 locations in the U.S., such as airports, McDonald’s restaurants, Barnes & Noble bookstores, coffee shops, and sporting venues.”

This service would be made available starting next week and would benefit the users of laptop and mobile devices, though the company’s “higher-speed” broadband customers already get this feature.

But it will only apply to new and existing customers that sign up for AT&T’s broadband services, including AT&T Yahoo High Speed Internet or FastAccess DSL, with downstream speeds of up to 1.5 Mbps, 3.0 Mbps, or 6.0 Mbps.

“Subscribers who only have the company’s wireless service will not be offered free Wi-Fi.”

This means that AT&T customers that have mobile phones with Wi-Fi technology also will have to subscribe to one of those services with downstream speeds of 1.5 Mbps or above to receive free Wi-Fi, an AT&T spokeswoman said.

“Simply having an iPhone with a standard AT&T data plan would not qualify, for example.”

For new customers, AT&T will activate Wi-Fi connectivity when they sign up for a new broadband service and complete the setup and the registration process.

“AT&T, which has 1,500 employees in Dayton, already operates the largest Wi-Fi network in the United States.”

AT&T initially began offering free Wi-Fi access to its higher-speed broadband customers last year. Those customers had to have AT&T Yahoo High Speed Internet Pro, AT&T Yahoo High Speed Internet Elite, FastAccess Xtreme, or FastAccess Xtreme 6.0, to be eligible for the offer.

T-Mobile, the No. 4 cellular carrier in the U.S., has put up more than 8,000 Wi-Fi hot spots across the country that its subscribers can use. Unlike AT&T, T-Mobile does not have a wire line business and has been promoting its Wi-Fi network as an advantage over the other cellular carriers.

T-Mobile also now offers a home-based Wi-Fi calling service that seamlessly switches subscribers back and forth between cell phone calls and calls made over Wi-Fi.

“By offering free Wi-Fi access to broadband subscribers, AT&T officials say they can offer an annual savings of $60.”

For those AT&T customers that do not have a broadband plan, the company estimates they are paying $240 more a year in Wi-Fi costs by not having a broadband plan.

The plan is geared toward AT&T customers’ wireless-enabled devices such as iPhones and PDAs, which is growing in popularity. More than one-third of Internet users have logged on using a wireless connection from home, work, restaurants, retail stores or airports, which demonstrate an increase in on-the-go connections.

AT&T also said it will start providing a new broadband service called “AT&T Yahoo High Speed Internet Max” to its U-verse customers in February. With the service, subscribers will get downstream speeds of up to 10 Mbps and upstream speeds of up to 1.5 Mbps.

AT&T Yahoo High Speed Internet Max will cost “$55 a month” when bundled with U-verse TV, which is AT&T’s suite of Internet Protocol-based products and services; they include U-verse TV and high-speed Internet access. Those subscribers also will qualify to receive free Wi-Fi access.

AT&T’s move could be seen as a way to entice subscribers to bundle cell phone service with their broadband service. But it might also be an attempt to compete with other cellular providers like T-Mobile, which offers subscribers access to its more than 8,000 Wi-Fi hot spots.

The company markets AT&T Yahoo! broadband service within its legacy 13-state region. AT&T is the nation’s largest provider of broadband service with 13.8 million lines in service as of the end of the third quarter.

AT&T is able to offer this faster speed because of the company’s Internet Protocol-based network, which delivers television and Internet services on a unified platform.

AT&T spokesman Fletcher Cook spoke on this new development: “It is a differentiator for us when people are choosing between competitors.”

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