AT&T expands WiFi hotzone project

AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) is expanding its WiFi hotzone project as a measure to ease the burden on its 3G mobile broadband network in areas of New York and San Francisco--two markets that have historically struggled with the onslaught of mobile data traffic.

No longer a pilot program, AT&T's hotzone project will be expanded, the operator said. It is expanding its existing Times Square WiFi hotzones and adding new hotzones near Rockefeller Center and St. Patrick's Cathedral. In addition, it will launch its next WiFi hotzone in San Francisco's Embarcadero Center.

Earlier in 2010, AT&T deployed WiFi hotzones in New York City's Times Square, downtown Charlotte, N.C. and Chicago's Wrigleyville as part of its pilot project to explore using WiFi to supplement mobile broadband in urban areas with consistently high mobile broadband use. In just a few months during the pilot, AT&T customers made more than 350,000 connections at the three hotzones, AT&T said.

"Our initial AT&T WiFi hotzones have received great customer response and supported high data traffic," said John Donovan, AT&T chief technology officer. "The pilot demonstrated the clear benefits of having fast and readily-available WiFi options for our customers and our network, and so we have decided to deploy hotzones in more locations."

The larger Times Square hotzone will now cover the north central part of Times Square along 7th Avenue, east along 46th Street, and along Broadway. New hotzones near Rockefeller Center and St. Patrick's Cathedral are planned to launch in the coming days.

In the third quarter 2010, AT&T handled 106.9 million WiFi connections on its network, exceeding the total 85.5 million connections made during the entire year in 2009. That primarily is because most of AT&T's smartphones now support auto-authentication at its AT&T-affiliated WiFi hotspots, and WiFi usage does not count against a subscriber's monthly smartphone data usage plan.

For more:
- see this release

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