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Johanne Torres[December 1, 2004]

SBC Hooks Up Barnes & Noble�s WiFi


It’s a small world after all—without WiFi access, that is! WiFi (define - news - alert) hotspots keep steadily growing in the U.S. and at a rapid speed. More and more telecoms and retail businesses are partnering to offer WiFi access to their customers. SBC Communications Inc. (quote - news -alert) is the latest to score a WiFi deal. The telecom giant will be hooking up bookseller retail store chain Barnes & Noble Inc. (quote - news - alert) The two companies announced that the SBC FreedomLink WiFi service will now be available at more than 600 Barnes & Noble bookstores nationwide.

"We chose SBC to be our WiFi partner because they provide our customers with the best user experience and value in the industry," said Chris Troia, chief information officer of Barnes & Noble. "SBC has a customer-friendly pricing model and widespread coverage in major metropolitan areas."

With the SBC FreedomLink WiFi service in place, both Barnes & Noble and SBC customers will be able to use their laptop computers and personal digital assistants to communicate online, surf the Internet and connect to corporate networks at speeds 50 to 100 times faster than a dial-up connection from the comfort of their local Barnes & Noble bookstore and café. The WiFi access in the Barnes & Noble retail stores comes with a price tag, however. Customers visiting the bookstores can sign up for a single two-hour session for $3.95.

"Barnes & Noble bookstores are marquee venues with wide availability and high customer loyalty, making them ideal locations for our FreedomLink WiFi service," said Scott Helbing, senior vice president, SBC consumer marketing. "As we continue to expand our WiFi network, it's important to make our service available in places where our customers already visit. And in terms of recognizable locations and a relaxing environment, few retail locations are in the same league as Barnes & Noble bookstores."

Customers also have the option of signing up for an annual membership with unlimited access to more than 5,000 SBC WiFi hot spots, including Barnes & Noble bookstores, for $19.95 per month, through SBC. As an introductory offer, SBC Yahoo DSL customers can receive unlimited access to SBC FreedomLink hot spots at no charge until April 15, 2005, and pay just $1.99 a month with a one-year term commitment thereafter. Whew! This complicated fee schedule just made my head spin!

SBC says that the deal with Barnes & Noble would make the telecom’s FreedomLink WiFi network one of the nation's largest, with the service available in more than 5,000 locations throughout the U.S. The telecom wants its FreedomLink service to be available in more than 20,000 locations by the end of 2006. SBC has made available a list of FreedomLink locations for customers at their Web site.

This announcement follows SBC’s recent development with its cellular wing Cingular Wireless to utilize WiFi and the Cingular third-generation (3G) network to deliver high-speed wireless Internet access. Very soon these developments will allow customers to buy books, have a cappuccino, send e-mails and place a VoIP call at their local bookstore hot spot.

Barnes & Noble Inc.

SBC Communications Inc.

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


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