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iPhone Owners: AT&T Building a Wi-Fi Hotzone in Times Square for You

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“First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win.” Mahatma Gandhi.

I included that quote because I was bemused by AT&T’s announcement that it’s (s T) building a giant Wi-Fi hotspot in Times Square as a way to offload traffic from its pokey and overcrowded 3G network.

Times Square may not be the only massive, public hotspot effort by Ma Bell — if the pilot works then AT&T plans to roll out in three other locations. I bet those places will be in New York and San Francisco, where AT&T performs like a 300-pound man running up a 60-degree incline. In 2008 AT&T bought Wayport for $275 million and with it 21,000 hotspots in places such as the Starbucks coffee chain, but the carrier never effectively used that network to boost its Wi-Fi capabilities.

AT&T, for as long as I can remember, was what I would call a Wi-Fi hater: using its immense lobbying powers to kill municipal Wi-Fi and other such efforts. Its executives often joked about Wi-Fi not being a carrier-class technology. Good to see them learning from those they mocked.

But they should also be reaching out to cable companies, which have Wi-Fi initiatives of their own and lease capacity on their Wi-Fi networks in order to accommodate their 3G customers. Cablevision (s CVC) in Long Island, N.Y. would be a good place to start.

Related GigaOM Pro Content (sub req’d): How AT&T Will Deal With iPad Data Traffic

Image courtesy Flickr user Adventures in Librarianship.

5 Responses to “iPhone Owners: AT&T Building a Wi-Fi Hotzone in Times Square for You”

  1. Great post Om. I wrote something similar on my site…but not as smart…and with a silly joke thrown in. Ha! I also noted that I know hundreds of people in San Francisco that would be happy with a similar stopgap solution.

  2. I believe the current iPhones only have 2.4Ghz capable WiFi radios. These crowded areas will have VERY crowded 2.4Ghz (like conferences always do). If they build out a network that also uses 5Ghz (802.11a) then iPad owners rejoice. Hopefully the next iPhone will have a dual-band WiFi radio as well.