AT&T to Acquire Wayport

AT&T today announced that it has agreed, through one of its subsidiaries, to acquire privately-held Wayport, Inc., for approximately $275 million in cash.

The acquisition means that some AT&T subscribers can now get Wi-Fi access at nearly 20,000 domestic hotspots at no additional charge. “Select” AT&T smartphone customers, AT&T LaptopConnect customers, and AT&T High Speed Internet (including U-verse) subscribers will all benefit from the “free” service.

Wayport’s network includes hotspots in the hospitality, health care, education, and retail sectors, including locations as disparate as the Four Seasons hotels and McDonald’s restaurants.

According to In-Stat, nearly 300 million Wi-Fi-enabled devices were shipped in 2007, with nearly one billion predicted by 2012. AT&T wants those users on its network.

“We’re seeing exponential growth of Wi-Fi-enabled devices—such as smartphones—combined with a continued dependency on 24/7, any time, anywhere Internet access across business and consumer market segments,” said John Stankey, president and CEO, AT&T Operations in a press release Thursday. “Now is the right time for AT&T to affirm our commitment to Wi-Fi leadership.”

Wayport currently provides back-office management for AT&T’s Wi-Fi hotspots. The acquisition will bring management of Wi-Fi infrastructure completely under AT&T’s control, which it hopes will drive user confidence among enterprise users, as well as more casual users.

“AT&T’s premier capabilities in both the enterprise and consumer industries will take Wayport’s strength in delivering Wi-Fi solutions over converged networks to an entirely new level,” said Dave Vucina, chairman and chief executive officer of Wayport. “AT&T’s ability to reach and service tens of millions of customers will greatly expand the value we currently bring to our customers. As part of AT&T, we’ll bring new and better solutions to our customers on a global scale, with greater reach and more innovative services.”

The transaction is expected to close before the end of this quarter.

Naomi Graychase is Managing Editor at Wi-Fi

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