AT&T Offers Free Wi-Fi Access to Some Smartphones

October 31, 2008

If you're an avid BlackBerry or iPhone user, you'll now be able to log onto AT&T's 17,000 Wi-Fi hot spots for free.

If you're an avid BlackBerry or iPhone user, you'll now be able to log onto AT&T's 17,000 Wi-Fi hot spots for free.

Everyone loves Wi-Fi. The wireless Internet technology lets us surf the Web from the comfort of our couch, er, I mean from the airport, hotel room, or conference room. Use of Wi-Fi continues to grow, and hot spots are nearly everywhere. AT&T has decided to spread some Wi-Fi love to its smartphone subscribers.

There are a few caveats involved. First, you have to have an active unlimited data plan (generally $20 or $30 per month) in order to get access to the free Wi-Fi. Also, right now, only the iPhone and BlackBerry Bold (which doesn't launch until next week) are supported. AT&T will be adding support for the BlackBerry Pearl and 8800 Series BlackBerries in the coming months.

If you meet those, criteria, however, you're golden! AT&T has some 17,000 Wi-Fi hot spots spread across the country in Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, and thousands of other locations.

"AT&T is committed to providing its customers with the best connectivity at the best value," said David Christopher, chief marketing officer of AT&T's mobility business unit. "We have the industry's leading lineup of smartphones, along with the nation's largest Wi-Fi network. It only makes sense for us to bring these unique capabilities together for our customers."

The move makes sense for AT&T. If users choose to access the Internet via Wi-Fi rather than AT&T's cellular network, it frees up needed bandwidth for other users to access the regular cellular network. In highly populated areas, such as cities, this issue is important. It is also good for the end user. Wi-Fi is always faster than the cellular network. Having free Wi-Fi access when grabbing a coffee at Starbucks will encourage people to surf and (maybe) drink more coffee.

Interested AT&T smartphone users should point their mobile browsers to http://www.attwifi.com/ to get started.

Surf on!