One Device, Free Access

By Eric Griffith

April 02, 2007

Providers like T-Mobile and EarthLink are making deals to give products like the PSP and Nokia N800 free Internet access to benefit everyone involved.

Anyone with a $400 Nokia N800 Internet Tablet (see review) can get free access to the Internet via any EarthLink municipal Wi-Fi Network until the end of this year.

Likewise, anyone with a $200 Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP) gaming system can get online for no charge at any T-Mobile Hotspot for the next six months; users of the Sony mylo handheld can use T-Mobile hotspots free for a year.

Such users probably will use their devices primarily on their home networks, but it’s a move that helps EarthLink and T-Mobile continue to get the word out about their services, landing customers who they hope will enjoy the access enough to pay for it in the future. The move may also help a company like Nokia increase sales of the N800, which hasn't taken off in the United States.

NokiaN800EarthLink currently has service in the cities of Anaheim, Corpus Christi, Milpitas, New Orleans and Philadelphia. N800 owners will need to download and install software called the EarthLink Wi-Fi / Feather Connection Wizard to use the municipal networks. The software provides an encrypted connection. Users could also download the Devicescape client for the N800 to get easy, automatic access to the EarthLink networks if they already have an account (sign up for the free access first).

T-Mobile's deal for the PSP requires version 3.30 software running on the handheld. The company's hotspots are found in Starbucks, Borders Books, and many hotels and airport lounges. A full list of locations is available online. After the six months of free service, T-Mobile will offer a special subscription rate to PSP owners, but hasn't disclosed yet what the cost will be. It's likely to be cheaper than the monthly rate they charge for full laptop access. The first game to support Wi-Fi connections with T-Mobile -- by building in a button in the game software to facilitate connection -- will be "Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters." More will debut this year.

PSP users at T-Mobile hotspots can also surf the Web with the embedded browser.

Users of the Nintendo DS -- so far, a bigger seller than the PSP -- have free access to hotspots at McDonald's going back a couple of years, but the access is limited to head-to-head game competition on several titles, including the new release of Diddy Kong Races. However, unlike PSP at T-Mobile, the DS at Mickey D's will always be free.

The $350 Sony mylo (short for my life online) handheld is designed from the ground up as a handheld for use on Wi-Fi networks. It supports voice communications over Skype, text/IM communications via GoogleTalk and Yahoo! Messenger, and Web browsing. The free service deal with T-Mobile is good from the time of activation of the unit until 12 months later.

Of course, this isn't limited just to new handhelds. Microsoft and T-Mobile have a deal for all new Windows Vista users to get free access via T-Mobile hotspots until the end of April 2007 -- so get out there while you still can.

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