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5/25/2010
12:30 PM
Eric Ogren
Eric Ogren
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AT&T Gifting Free Wi-Fi To Times Square

In what looks to be another move to salvage network performance in New York City, AT&T has announced a pilot program to offer free Wi-Fi to its subscribers in the Times Square area of Manhattan. It's the latest admission by AT&T that it doesn't know how to fix its cellular network in the Big Apple.

In what looks to be another move to salvage network performance in New York City, AT&T has announced a pilot program to offer free Wi-Fi to its subscribers in the Times Square area of Manhattan. It's the latest admission by AT&T that it doesn't know how to fix its cellular network in the Big Apple.AT&T admits quite freely that this pilot Wi-Fi program is an attempt to offload data traffic from its clogged 3G network in New York City. The company explains in a press release, "The new Wi-Fi coverage zone is a pilot deployment to explore the use of Wi-Fi to provide an additional mobile broadband option in areas with consistently high 3G traffic and mobile data use."

In other words, "We don't know what else to do to fix network performance in Times Square, so we're giving this a shot." AT&T already offers free Wi-Fi to its smartphone subscribers at every Starbucks across the U.S. Starbucks coffee shops are sprinkled generously throughout Times Square. In fact, AT&T said that during the first quarter of this year, it handled 53.1 million Wi-Fi connections on its network. That's 53.1 million instances when smartphones ditched AT&T's 3G network in favor of Wi-Fi.

AT&T also offered an application to the iPhone that lets users report dead zones or areas where they experienced dropped calls or poor performance.

AT&T has struggled to get its NYC network performing "on par" what other markets in the country. In January, the company highlighted how its network in both NYC and San Francisco -- which have higher than normal concentrations of iPhone users -- were not handling the load. The company said it would take steps to improve the performance of its network in those markets. It recently cited that there are fewer dropped calls, but obviously problems remain. (What's stunning is that iPad 3G owners haven't reported terrible problems with AT&T's data network since its launch several weeks ago.)

If you happen to find yourself in Times Square -- whether for business or pleasure -- be sure to turn on your AT&T smartphone's Wi-Fi. AT&T says the hot spot is centered near 7th Avenue between 45th and 47th Street. I am dying to know how well this temporary fix works.

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