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10/8/2007
01:57 PM
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Alltel Offers Wi-Fi Service To Cell Phone Users

The Wi-Fi and EVDO Wireless Internet bundle includes unlimited Wi-Fi access from any supported hotspot for $10 a month.

Cellular carrier Alltel Wireless on Monday launched a Wi-Fi hotspot service that lets its subscribers access the mobile Web using their smartphones or laptops.

Alltel's new Wi-Fi service is powered by Boingo Wireless, a Wi-Fi hotspot aggregator that operates a network of 60,000 hotspots in airports, hotels, cafes, and other public places. The Alltel service will encompass subscribers in North and South America.

As part of the service, Alltel is offering a Wi-Fi and EVDO Wireless Internet "bundle," which includes unlimited Wi-Fi access from any supported hotspot for $10 a month. Here's the catch: The bundle has to be purchased in addition to Alltel's Wireless Internet plan that delivers speeds of up to 2.4 Mbps on its nationwide data network.

EVDO -- or Evolution Data Optimized -- is a third-generation cellular technology deployed by other carriers in the United States, including Sprint Nextel and Verizon Wireless. By having both Wi-Fi and EVDO access, mobile users get the advantage of two high-speed broadband technologies that are good enough for downloading files and using mobile applications wirelessly on a smartphone or laptop with integrated Wi-Fi.

Alltel is also making available prepaid Wi-Fi cards at its retail stores for $20 a week or $10 a day. T-Mobile, the No. 4 cellular carrier in the United States, has been heavily promoting its Wi-Fi network of more than 8,000 hotspots for a while now, and this summer introduced a home-based Wi-Fi calling service that seamlessly switches subscribers back and forth between cell phone calls and calls made over Wi-Fi.

In July, AT&T began offering free access to its nationwide Wi-Fi network of about 10,000 hotspots, applicable to subscribers that already have signed up for one of its broadband packages.

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