AT & T fires up Wi-Fi hotspot in Times Square

Tue, 05/25/2010 - 8:10am
Mike Robuck

In an effort to relieve network congestion, AT&T said today that it has launched a free Wi-Fi hotspot in New York City’s Times Square area.

AT&T’s new Wi-Fi “hotzone,” which is located on 7th Avenue between 45th and 47th streets, is the first step in a pilot program that will use Wi-Fi to ease congestion on AT&T’s 3G network. Despite a network upgrade, AT&T’s 3G service has been dragged down by the volume of iPhone and smartphone users on the network.

AT&T’s Times Square Wi-Fi hotspot will compete directly against free Wi-Fi offerings from Cablevision, Time Warner Cable and Comcast, which formed a pact last month to offer Wi-Fi services across each other’s footprints in the New York metropolitan area.

The AT&T Wi-Fi hotzone at Times Square is available to AT&T customers with qualifying smartphone, 3G LaptopConnect and AT&T high-speed Internet plans.

"Whether they're e-mailing photos and videos to friends back home, downloading a restaurant review or ordering discount Broadway tickets online, people in Times Square want the mobile broadband connection that lets them get the most done in the least amount of time," said John Donovan, AT&T’s chief technology officer. "With this pilot AT&T Wi-Fi hotzone, we're examining new ways to combine our Wi-Fi and 3G networks to help ensure that AT&T customers in Times Square always have a fast mobile broadband connection to do what matters most to them.”

Due to mobile devices such as the iPhone, as well as the ever-growing demand for bandwidth-consuming Internet videos, AT&T said mobile data traffic has grown 5,000 percent over the past three years, which, along with customer complaints, has prompted it to make significant investments in its 3G network. AT&T has upgraded its backhaul networks and tried other enhancements, including the deployment of 3G MicroCell devices to expand in-home coverage and distributed antenna system networks to extend 3G coverage in stadiums, convention halls and other areas where people congregate.

If the results of the Times Square Wi-Fi hotspot prove to be promising, AT&T said it might deploy more hotzones in other areas of the country, but it didn’t provide any additional details.

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