AT&T’s WiFi hotzone pilot was so successful, the carrier announced Dec. 28, that it plans to soon expand the program to several additional locations. Kicking off the new growth will be an extension of its Times Square hotzone – launched in June – as well as new Manhattan hotzones near Rockefeller Center and St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
“We’re excited to start the next phase of our hotzone program with additional WiFi coverage areas in New York City and, soon, in San Francisco,” Angie Wiskocil, senior vice president of AT&T WiFi Services, said in a statement. “AT&T WiFi will be available across a wider area for Manhattan residents, visitors and New Year’s Eve revelers during the busy holiday season and beyond. Plus, San Francisco residents are expected to soon be able to enjoy a WiFi hotzone in the Embarcadero Center area as they shop, dine and work.”
The AT&T WiFi hotzones work to complement the carrier’s 3G coverage, adding data network capacity in high-traffic areas. The (for now) exclusive U.S. provider of the Apple iPhone, AT&T has been particularly challenged to offer unwavering data network support in San Francisco in New York, where iPhone owners are heavy on the ground. For AT&T wireless data subscribers, as well as those with LaptopConnect and AT&T High Speed Internet plans, unlimited access to the hotzones – just as with AT&T’s 23,000-plus hotspots – is offered at no additional cost.
Earlier this year, AT&T deployed hotzones in Charlotte, N.C., and Chicago’s Wrigleyville, in addition to Times Square.
“Our initial AT&T WiFi hotzones have received great customer response and supported high data traffic,” AT&T CTO John Donovan said in the statement. “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.”
During the third quarter, the carrier handled 106.9 million WiFi connections-well above the 85.5 million it handled during the whole of 2009. It attributed this increase to both an increase in available WiFi, the popularity of the technology with consumers and the increasing use of WiFi-enabled smartphones. Additionally, a growing number of devices-such as the HTC Aria on AT&T, and the Droid X on Verizon Wireless – can not only access WiFi but act as mobile hotspots, extending the capability to a number of a user’s other devices.
The only one of the top-four U.S. carriers to not currently offer a 4G network, earlier this month AT&T purchased spectrum from Qualcomm-currently used to support Qualcomm’s FLO TV business-that it plans to use in its planned LTE (long-term evolution) 4G network.
It expects to begin making use of the spectrum, it said in a Dec. 20 statement, “once compatible handsets and network equipment are developed.”