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10/18/2004
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Wi-Fi Service Bundled With DSL By SBC

The phone company says its new Wi-Fi service covers 3,900 hot-spots.

SBC Communications Inc., one of the nation's largest telephone companies, introduced Wi-Fi service for business and residential DSL customers, giving them access to 3,900 hot-spots for $1.99 a month. New DSL customers will be able to use the service at no charge until April 15.

SBC provides more than 4.3 million high-speed DSL lines in conjunction with Yahoo Inc. Customers of the service, called SBC Yahoo DSL, will pay as little as $29 a month for DSL and Wi-Fi if they sign a one-year DSL contract. Non-DSL customers will continue to pay $19.95 a month for the Wi-Fi service.

Bundling Wi-Fi service with DSL is one way for SBC to differentiate its high-speed wired data service from rival cable-modem services, the company says. SBC's Wi-Fi service, called FreedomLink, is available at airports, hotels, coffee shops, and some McDonald's outlets and United Parcel Service stores. The company plans to expand its Wi-Fi service to more than 20,000 hot spots by the end of 2006.

"More than 42% of our business customers say they're mobile at least 20% of the time, and our FreedomLink service gives them a mobile solution that increases business productivity and effectiveness," says Scott Helbing, a senior VP at SBC. The company says it's working with Cingular Wireless, one of the nation's largest cell-phone-service companies, to expand the availability of high-speed wireless Internet access. SBC owns 60% of Cingular.

"Local phone companies like SBC see their most important job as getting the customer to use all of their services in a bundle," says Jeff Kagan, an independent telecom-industry analyst, in an E-mail. "That's why they offer discounts as part of a bundle, and this $1.99 is a helluva discount."

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