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Sprint PCS To Begin Offering Public Wi-Fi Access

The service will let users connect with the Web whenever they're near one of 800 hot spots nationwide.
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) -- Sprint Corp. plans to offer high-speed wireless Internet access for laptops equipped with Wi-Fi by the end of summer, joining a growing number of major phone companies that have embraced the hot technology.

The new service, announced Monday, will let customers connect with the Web whenever they're near one of about 800 "hot spots" around the nation, mostly through roaming agreements with Wi-Fi carriers including Airpath Wireless and Wayport.

Wi-Fi, short for wireless fidelity, radiates an Internet connection that multiple computers can share within 300 feet from any transmitter.

A similar service was recently launched by Verizon, which is providing Wi-Fi access through transmitters on its public pay phones. AT&T Wireless plans to launch a Wi-Fi service as well.

Prices will be announced when Sprint launches the service, which will be accessible to customers who already have a Wi-Fi enabled computer or those who buy a special laptop card. A Wi-Fi enabled version of the software used to connect a laptop to Sprint PCS's cellular network will be introduced at that time.

Sprint plans to offer the service, named PCS Wi-Fi Access, through more than 2,100 hot spots by the end of 2003. The initial 800 locations where Sprint plans to offer Wi-Fi access include airports, convention centers and hotels.

Customers in those settings are the most likely to be more likely to be stationary for an extended period of time and have the greatest need for high-speed access, the company said.