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AT&T announced today that it has agreed to acquire Wayport, a leading provider of managed Wi-Fi services in the United States. The $275 million cash deal will sharply expand the number of hotspots where customers can get Internet access. Wayport currently provides back-office management for AT&T’s Wi-Fi Hot Spots, so the acquisition brings management of Wi-Fi infrastructure completely under AT&T management.

AT&T’s Wi-Fi footprint will expand to nearly 20,000 domestic hotspots and the company’s global Wi-Fi presence to more than 80,000 locations. Wayport hotspots are in key locations, including select Wyndham, Marriott Vacation Club and Four Seasons hotels; HealthSouth and Sun Healthcare locations; plus McDonald’s restaurants.

Wayport is a neutral host, enabling wireless carriers, ILECs, ISPs, device manufacturers and aggregators like Boingo to offer their own branded Wi-Fi experience. Founded in 1996, Wayport began providing Internet connectivity to the wider community by creating hot spots in approximately 10,000 McDonald’s restaurants throughout the United States.

AT&T says their marketing leadership and enterprise sales force will complement Wayport’s expertise in enabling and managing applications over an integrated network. Wayport will also extend AT&T’s reach in the hospitality, health care, education and retail sectors.

According to AT&T, a broader and deeper AT&T Wi-Fi network means more free connectivity for millions of AT&T customers, including select AT&T smartphone customers, AT&T LaptopConnect customers and AT&T High Speed Internet (including U-verse) subscribers. It may have more to do with keeping iPhone users happy, and from clogging up the rest of their 3G network.

The combined company will be able to deliver a more cost-effective and streamlined solution for enterprises with both the back-office infrastructure and end-user content application managed by one company, says the company.

  • AT&T will provide a comprehensive solution for businesses seeking converged and managed network capabilities – on one network – with global reach, while also bringing ready access to the nation’s largest Wi-Fi, wireless and leading global IP network.
  • Enterprise customers will be able to better utilize private-side applications – effectively managing costs and increasing productivity levels – including inventory management, remote employee learning, point-of-sale applications and remote security monitoring.
  • A unified solution will drive new business partnerships, leveraging AT&T’s unique, innovative services and applications available to enterprise customers.
  • Enterprise customers will benefit from new, revenue-generating opportunities with AT&T’s ability to bring customized, location-based messaging and advertising to more touch points – via a streamlined Wi-Fi solution – reaching more end-users.

The transaction is expected to close as early as the fourth quarter of 2008.

Boingo Wireless has an agreement to access Wayport’s entire North American network of Wi-Fi hotspots, including over 9,000 WiFi-enabled McDonald’s US restaurants. Boingo combines over 100,000 locations from more than 150 leading Wi-Fi operators, like Wayport that serves Starbucks and McDonalds, into one worldwide network.

Boingo has two basic rates; WiFi connections for laptops cost $21.95 month while connections to handheld devices cost only $7.95/month. Additional charges may apply at some premium international locations. Boingo Mobile is currently available for devices running Windows Mobile 6.0, Windows Mobile 5.0, Symbian S60 3rd Edition, and Linux.

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