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Managing Editor

SBC turns up the heat in hot-spot competition

Aug 11, 20033 mins

The carrier becomes the latest RBOC to plan a Wi-Fi service rollout.

SBC last week outlined plans for an extensive Wi-Fi hot-spot rollout, the latest in a series of moves by the regional Bell operating companies to exploit the wireless technology to give remote users or frequent business travelers high-speed access to corporate data.

The carrier also said it is creating an integrated Wi-Fi and 3G wireless service to deliver broadband wireless offerings to home, business and remote users.

As part of the new Wi-Fi service, to be called FreedomLink, SBC plans to deploy more than 1,000 Wi-Fi hot spots in several hundred venues in its 13-state region by year-end, and says it will have more than 9,000 hot spots in 2,000 venues by year-end 2004 and more than 20,000 hot spots in 6,000 venues by 2006. The company will continue to deploy hot spots in hotels, airports, convention centers and other venues after 2006.

The integrated Wi-Fi/3G service is expected to be available in late 2004 or early 2005.

SBC did not disclose its investment in this effort. It said expenses would be minimal, however, because it is utilizing existing network assets.

In addition to establishing hot spots at primary venues, SBC said it also plans to provide a turnkey product that lets small businesses become a hot spot to differentiate themselves in the marketplace. The businesses then would offer Wi-Fi access to their customers, similar to what Starbucks and McDonald’s are already doing through other service providers.

Wi-Fi refers to any wireless LAN product that’s based on the IEEE 802.11 WLAN standard with theoretical data rates ranging from 11M to 54M bit/sec.

To augment its Wi-Fi plan, SBC has reached a roaming agreement with Wayport, a leading Wi-Fi service provider. The agreement will give SBC customers access to Wayport services in more than 650 locations nationwide, including 565 hotels, eight airports and 75 restaurants.

To give subscribers access to more hot spots, SBC says it also will pursue roaming agreements with other Wi-Fi service providers.

Wayport is becoming the Wi-Fi roaming partner of choice for the RBOCs. Verizon Wireless last week said it is teaming with Wayport to offer customers up to 650 Wi-Fi access points at hotels, convention centers and airports across the U.S.

For its effort, SBC plans to use its public telephone infrastructure to establish access points and use SBC DSL or T-1 service to transport data from the access point to the network.

SBC will use its relationship with wireless operator Cingular to bring an integrated Wi-Fi/3G service to market. The service will let subscribers move between their home or office SBC broadband service, SBC FreedomLink Wi-Fi hot spots and Cingular’s network, the carrier says.

SBC and Cingular currently are working on a way to allow roaming between home and office LANs, Wi-Fi hot spots and the Cingular network. This would let subscribers receive broadband Internet access regardless of where they are, SBC says.

Pricing for FreedomLink will be announced when the service becomes available.

Senior Editors John Cox and Denise Pappalardo contributed to this story. 

RBOC plans

SBC has the most aggressive plan to date among the Bells for rolling out Wi-Fi-based services.


Wi-Fi plan
BellSouthOffers a home network service that uses Wi-Fi; has not announced a hot-spot coverage plan.
SBCUnder FreedomLink, the carrier intends to roll out 20,000 hot spots at 6,000 locations over the next three years.
QwestHas not divulged a Wi-Fi plan, though observers say the company might resell Sprint PCS’s Wi-Fi service.
VerizonSays it will turn up 1,000 Wi-Fi hot spots in Manhattan by the end of the year.
Managing Editor

Jim Duffy has been covering technology for over 28 years, 23 at Network World. He covers enterprise networking infrastructure, including routers and switches. He also writes The Cisco Connection blog and can be reached on Twitter @Jim_Duffy and at

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