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Johanne Torres[October 14, 2004]

Will the Spots Burn Cingular?

BY JOHANNE TORRES


The availability of WiFi (define - news - alert) hotspots in the U.S. is rising. We have been seeing more huge community-wide deployment plans this past year, including plans to make the entire city of Philadelphia (its whole 135 square mile territory) the biggest WiFi hot spot in the U.S. Philadelphians: really happy!




Cingular’s happy orange man seems to want to take a stroll around that same WiFi park. There have not been any ultra official announcements made, but there have been reports that SBC (quote) plans to add on Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) (define - news - alert) capabilities to mobile phones carried by its joint venture with BellSouth—Cingular Wireless. The move will enable Cingular Wireless customers’ mobile phones to automatically and seamlessly switch connection from wireless to WiFi, whenever the user is near a public WiFi hotspot. The company expects to have the offering up and running by 2005 for corporate accounts, followed by service for residential customers in 2006.

SBC counts with at least nationwide 3,500 WiFi access points to date. The telecom company currently has some WiFi hookup deals in the works with McDonald's and UPS stores. SBC plans to launch a residential VoIP triple play-type service combo by next year, offering broadband connectivity, VoIP calling plans, and legacy telephone lines. Cingular Wireless has more than 25 million U.S. voice and data customers. The wireless carrier recently announced it purchased AT&T (quote) Wireless for a whopping $41 billion.

Is this the end of expensive cellular calling plans? And roaming and overage charges? I will sure thank God for WiFi’s miracle, if it ever happens!

Johanne Torres is the contributing editor for TMCnet.com and Internet Telephony magazine. Previously, she was the assistant editor for EContent magazine in Connecticut. She can be reached by e-mail at jtorres@tmcnet.com.

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