AT&T ad-backed Wi-Fi to take wing at Dallas airport

AT&T (NYSE:T) is dabbling in an advertising-supported Wi-Fi network that will be unveiled at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport in late summer.

Beginning Sept. 1, free Wi-Fi will be in DFW's five terminals, parking garages and ramp areas. According to the Dallas Morning News, the airport negotiated with AT&T for months regarding the Wi-Fi network but had to let an existing contract with T-Mobile expire before AT&T's network could be announced. The AT&T Wi-Fi network promises to offer faster speeds and wider coverage than the airport's current T-Mobile Wi-Fi network. "We felt it was critical from a competitive standpoint for us to provide free Wi-Fi, and AT&T really stepped up to make it happen," said Ken Buchanan, executive vice president for revenue management at DFW.

The one caveat for DFW Wi-Fi customers is that they will have to view a 30-second advertisement for every 40 minutes of network usage. The service will obviously be available to laptops, but it is unclear whether smartphones and tablets will be conducive to the types of ads AT&T intends to transmit in order to support the free Wi-Fi service.

It will be intriguing to see how AT&T's foray into ad-supported Wi-Fi fares. Similar models were used to support early efforts to provide free access to municipal Wi-Fi Networks, but those efforts crashed and burned in many cases as advertising revenues could not keep up with the cost to provide service. AT&T's current business model involves marketing Wi-Fi access in its hotspots for a monthly subscription fee of $20 or session-based fee of $4. The operator provides Wi-Fi access to nearly 30,000 U.S. hotspots and more than 220,000 globally through roaming agreements.

For more:
- see this Dallas Morning News article
- see this GigaOm article

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