AT&T tests WiFi data offload concept in Times Square

AT&T (NYSE:T) is testing the WiFi data offload concept in a big way. The operator announced it set up a giant WiFi hotzone in New York City's Times Square that will provide its mobile broadband customers free access.

AT&T called the new WiFi coverage zone a pilot deployment that will be used to explore the use of WiFi to provide an additional broadband option in areas with consistently high 3G traffic and mobile data use. Depending on the results from this pilot, AT&T said it may deploy additional hotzones in other areas across the country

Many of AT&T's smartphones support auto-authentication at AT&T Wi-Fi Hot Spots, making it automatic for subscribers to connect to its 21,000 hotspots. In the first quarter of 2010, the majority of AT&T WiFi connections (69 percent) were made from smartphones and integrated devices, up from 35 percent a year ago in the first quarter of 2009, the company said.

AT&T's Ralph de la Vega has indicated in the past that offloading data traffic onto WiFi would play a large role in curbing its overwhelming data growth.

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