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April 24, 2009

AT&T Reports Growth in WiFi Users, Connections

By Calvin Azuri, TMCnet Contributor

AT&T has reported growth in the number of WiFi (News - Alert) users and connections in the first quarter of 2009.

When compared with the 3.4 million connections in the first quarter of 2008, WiFi connections in the first quarter of 2009 have reached 10.5 million. This is more than half of AT&T’s 20 million total WiFi connections for the year 2008. AT&T, a communications holding company, provides advanced IP-based business communications services, high speed Internet access and voice services. It has the largest WiFi network in the United States.
Yet the company – the exclusive carrier for the Apple Inc. iPhone 3G – has landed itself in controversy this week.
Even as rumors emerge that AT&T is seeking to doublethe capacity of its 3G networks, a “net neutrality” advocacy group called Free Press is asking the Federal Communications Commission to look into AT&T and Apple’s (News - Alert) use of Skype.
The news comes as AT&T reports revenues of nearly $30.6 billion, down less than 1 percent despite a 12 percent jump in profits in its wireless division.
As TMC (News - Alert) President Rich Tehrani writes here, that bit of positive news is attributable – entirely attributable, even – to the success of the iPhone (News - Alert).
Even so, analysts still don’t fully understand the “stickiness,” or market leadership and lasting ability of the iPhone, Tehrani says. Apple’s  business model, the iTunes App Store, which is leveraging software technology to sell applications and allow users to tailor their devices, is one of the iPhone’s keys.
“Sure, many applications are able to run across other platforms but they generally run less effectively as they other devices don’t have the UI Apple does,” Tehrani writes. “Regardless, no other device has the plethora of apps that run on the iPhone meaning every day that goes by where new apps are developed, more consumers are effectively locked in.”
The growth in WiFi connections is being attributed to AT&T’s wired and wireless broadband customer base, the increase in the number of WiFi enabled devices and the transition of Starbucks locations to AT&T’s WiFi footprint. The first quarter of 2009 has witnessed broadband connections (consisting of wireline and wireless LaptopConnect cards) growing by 471,000 to reach 16.7 million in service. WiFi access is provided free with qualifying AT&T high speed Internet plans, 3G LaptopConnect plans as well as select smartphone plans.
According to Angie Wiskocil, senior vice president of AT&T WiFi Services, customers have shown A&T that they value speed and mobility in their broadband connections.
AT&T will be able to deliver a better experience for its customers where they live and work with the fastest 3G network and the largest WiFi network in the United States, she said. Wayport Inc. began operating as AT&T WiFi Services in the first quarter. Wayport, acquired by AT&T in December, 2008 has a footprint that includes hotspot locations in retail, hospitality and healthcare venues.
The number and type of WiFi enabled devices has been growing steadily. Sony launched a WiFi enabled digital camera with a built-in web browser and complimentary access to AT&T’s WiFi network in January. AT&T is also offering Wireless embedded mini laptops such as the Acer Aspire One, Dell Inspiron Mini 9 and Mini 12, and LG Xenia are being offered by AT&T in select store trial promotions in Atlanta and Philadelphia. The first quarter witnessed around 4 million connections made with smartphones such as the iPhone 3G at AT&T’s U.S. Hot Spots. AT&T also provides WiFi enabled smartphones, such as the BlackBerry (News - Alert) Bold.

Don’t forget to check out TMCnet’s White Paper Library, which provides a selection of in-depth information on relevant topics affecting the IP Communications industry. The library offers white papers, case studies and other documents which are free to registered users.

Calvin Azuri is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Calvin’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Michael Dinan

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