AT&T reports WiFi surge as more devices support auto-authentication

As AT&T actively encourages some of its heaviest smartphone users to use WiFi, the company reported that in the third quarter, smartphones and integrated devices for the first time accounted for more than half of all WiFi connections on its company-owned WiFi hotspots.

In reporting its highest-ever number of WiFi connections made on its network in a single quarter, AT&T said its customers made 25.4 million connections in the the third quarter--exceeding the 20 million connections made in all of 2008.

AT&T said the number brings total AT&T WiFi connections to more than 51 million since the beginning of 2009--more than double the connections for the full year of 2008. WiFi usage has been increasing significantly each quarter, up from 5.2 million connections in the third quarter of 2008, AT&T said.

The significant increase can be attributed to the rising number of smartphones and other WiFi enabled devices and to the growing number of AT&T customers with WiFi included in their AT&T service plans, AT&T said.

With the release of iPhone OS 3 came an automatic login to AT&T hotspots for U.S. iPhone subscribers. The capability allows iPhone users to seamlessly switch from AT&T's 3G network to an AT&T WiFi hotspot without being prompted. The device seeks out a WiFi connection first. Moreover, all WiFi-enabled BlackBerry devices feature auto-authentication too, and AT&T said select Windows Mobile devices now support auto-authentication.

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