AT&T makes unique WiFi deal with Barnes & Noble; sees surge in hotspot usage

AT&T announced a new WiFi agreement with retailer Barnes & Noble to offer free WiFi to all of the store's shoppers, not just AT&T customers. The deal also includes an ebook component whereby WiFi users, along with iPhone and BlackBerry users, will be able to access 700,000 Barnes & Noble ebooks.

The news comes as AT&T announced a jump in WiFi usage in the second quarter. The carrier said it handled nearly 15 million WiFi connections on its network, a 41 percent increase over the first quarter. AT&T said 49 percent of the total connections were made by integrated devices. This is an increase of 41 percent over the first quarter 2009--a significant shift that tracks with the growth of WiFi-enabled devices, AT&T said.

Since the beginning of the year, AT&T said it quadrupled its WiFi network authentication capacity in preparation for increased sessions, the ongoing rise in consumer demand for WiFi and to ensure reliable performance on the network.

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