Verizon's Bold Wi-Fi Push

By Colin C. Haley

May 13, 2003

The carrier activates 150 hotspots in NYC, part of a plan to bring wireless Internet access to its subscribers throughout the Big Apple and differentiate itself from cable broadband rivals.

Verizon this morning activated 150 Wi-Fi hotspots in New York, part of a plan to bring wireless Internet access to its subscribers throughout the Big Apple and differentiate itself from cable broadband rivals.

In all, the telecom plans to have 1,000 access spots in the city by year's end. Users can access the Internet through Wi-Fi compatible laptops, PDAs or pocket PCs within 300 feet of the hotspots.

The first hotspots (which will costs Verizon about $5,000 each to deploy) are in busy neighborhoods, including: the Upper East and Upper West Sides, Columbia University, Midtown, Union Square, Gramercy Park, Greenwich Village/NYU, Wall Street and Battery Park.

The company's Web site has a complete list. In addition, Verizon Wi-Fi-enabled public phones are identified with hotspot signs in red and black.

"Free access to our data network through emerging Wi-Fi technologies gives our customers benefits they can get from no other provider and makes our broadband service uniquely competitive," said James A. Otterbeck, a Verizon senior vice president.

"Uniquely competitive" is a subtle swipe at cable companies, who vie with Verizon for home and small business broadband services. By offering complementary Wi-Fi access to its DSL customers, Verizon believes it will have an edge over Comcast and others.

During a conference call with reporters, Verizon executives said they will use New York as a model for deployments in its other major markets. The company, which serves most of the East Coast, will wait to gather feedback before committing to a schedule.

"We're going to learn and we're going to grow." said Verizon executive Larry Babbio.

He added that Verizon is confident the investment will pay off by reducing customer churn and attracting new users.

Verizon said its Wi-Fi service in New York will be the largest run by any carrier in a major city. It will however compete with several public hotspots. New York's Downtown Alliance recently launched three such sites in Manhattan and four more are expected to go live later this month.

For Verizon, it's the second bold move in the broadband market this month. Earlier, it slashed the price of its digital subscriber line home service to $34.95 per month, forcing competitors to follow suit or risk being undersold. Business package prices have also been cut.

In addition to price cuts is a partnership with Microsoft that will provide DSL users with MSN 8 software.



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