AT&T today announced the next phase of a major wireless fidelity (wi-fi) initiative -- the launch of its new AT&T Wi-Fi Service, offered free beginning July 30 in 60 McDonald's restaurants in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Any McDonald's customer with a wi-fi-enabled device in one of these locations can obtain high-speed Internet service at no charge until the end of August and at $2.99 a day thereafter.
AT&T Wi-Fi Service enables computer and personal digital assistant (PDA) users to surf the Internet, send and receive e-mail and obtain a host of other high-speed wireless benefits without being tethered to wires.
"AT&T is using a creative array of approaches, partnerships and resources to make the promise of the worldwide web available to all kinds of customers -- people on the go, 'windshield warriors,' students and families . . . anyone who wants the connectivity and convenience that AT&T offers," said Ray Solnik, Strategic Markets Vice President at AT&T Consumer.
Solnik noted that AT&T will provide the "face to the customer" when an Internet user logs on to AT&T Wi-Fi Service at McDonald's, ensuring the customer's experience is top-notch.
The AT&T Wi-Fi Service launch includes selected McDonald's outlets in Manhattan, Staten Island and parts of Westchester County. It also includes towns such as Edison, Middletown and Tinton Falls in New Jersey, and Danbury, Fairfield, and Stamford, Connecticut.
AT&T's approach to wi-fi is multi-faceted. In December 2002, it helped form Cometa Networks, a joint venture company that provides national wireless Internet access at a variety of retail locations throughout the United States. For Cometa, AT&T provides wi-fi networking services such as local access, Internet transport, network control, monitoring and management, as well as provisioning. Cometa, in turn, aggregates wi-fi "hotspots" so service providers such as AT&T can offer its customers wireless access to the Internet and their corporate networks.
Earlier this month, AT&T announced the integration of Wi-Fi as a broadband access option for customers of AT&T's industry-leading IP VPN services. Through a business relationship with access aggregator GRIC Communications Inc., AT&T IP VPN users can get wireless access from more than 2,100 hotels, airports and convention centers in at least 20 countries.
Solnik underscored the fact that AT&T will craft other agreements as necessary in order to ensure customers get the full benefits of wi-fi. "This is a technology that could make the benefits of the Internet more accessible," he added, "and nicely mirrors our mission of providing information and communications anytime, anywhere."
According to Parks Associates, there will be as many as 2.5 million wi-fi users in the U.S. by the end of the year. Another researcher, the Yankee Group, predicts 72,480 "hotspots" in the U.S. by 2007.