Baby Bells' Wi-Fi Plans Evolve

By Colin C. Haley

November 25, 2003

SBC rolls out a two-pronged pricing strategy while Verizon cuts its New York deployment in half.

SBC Communications will pursue a two-pronged pricing strategy for its new FreedomLink Wi-Fi service, a spokesman for the telecom confirmed Monday.

The San Antonio, Texas-based company said its prepaid plans, which have yet to be announced publicly, will give users three options: $25 for three sessions; $50 for eight sessions; and $100 for $20 session. Each session is good for a day and customers can order using their credit card online.

Unlimited access to SBC hotspots at airports, convention centers and hotels will also be available through a monthly subscription.

The monthly fee hasn't been set yet and will likely vary depending on whether the user bundles Wi-Fi with other SBC services such as DSL broadband.

"The [Wi-Fi] membership will be bundled on a bill with other services," Michael Coe, an SBC spokesman told internetnews.com. "These customers will receive the greatest discount." Whether or not the Baby Bell's best customers will receive Wi-Fi sessions at no additional charge remains to be seen, Coe said.

SBC currently has Wi-Fi hotspots near its headquarters in downtown San Antonio. By the end of the year, however, it expects to have 2,000 accessible to its users, within its 13-state range in the Midwest and West. The access points will either have been build by SBC or available to its users because of roaming agreements.

Meanwhile, Verizon Communications is cutting its New York hotspot deployment plan in half. In May, the telecom said it would activate 1,000 hotspots in Manhattan by year's end. But now, the company believes it can provide suitable coverage with only 500.

Currently, about 430 are active, most of which are attached to pay phone sites. Of those, 160 have enough range to reach into cafes and other businesses.

"That [1,000] was a figure we came up with," Verizon spokeswoman Briana Gowing said. "No one had done this before on this scale."

Gowing said the company is also experimenting with other wireless technologies in San Diego and Washington D.C., so a measured approach makes sense, Gowing said.



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