The acquisition news of the day is that AT&T will buy Wayport for $275 million. The move adds 20K U.S. Wi-Fi hotspots to AT&T’s network and access to 80K globally. Wayport Wi-Fi hotspots include McDonalds restaurants, Marriott Vacation Club resorts, and Four Seasons hotels. So why is AT&T so interested in Wi-Fi that they’re dropping a cool quarter of a billion for an expanded Wi-Fi footprint. Here’s my multiple takes – pick one and add your own opinion with the comment feature below:
- Silence the iPhone Whiners – The popularity of the 3G iPhone (2.4 million activations last quarter alone) is overwhelming AT&T’s 3G network, and the iPhone masses are pissed. By expanding their Wi-Fi network, AT&T is hoping to offload more iPhone generated broadband wireless traffic from their 3G network and hopefully quiet the whiners.
- Wi-Fi Is Still “Where It’s At” – Despite all the hype of WiMAX (courtesy of XOHM/Clearwire) and pending 4G networks, Wi-Fi will still be the dominant broadband wireless option for many more moons. There are, oh I don’t know, hundreds of millions of Wi-Fi enabled devices in the marketplace today. Contrast that with the ten or so WiMAX devices, and you can only imagine the amount of time it will take WiMAX and other technologies to catch Wi-Fi. AT&T just became the largest facilities based Wi-Fi operator in the country (and maybe the world).
- AT&T is Pre-Empting Cable – AT&T offers access to its Wi-Fi network for free to its premium broadband, iPhone, and BlackBerry Bold customers. This strategy adds value to AT&T broadband subscriptions. Value that AT&T hopes builds competitive advantage over cable companies, who will soon offer a broadband wireless option of their own.