AT&T has become the first US operator to broker a deal with Wi-Fi sharing community Fon.
The deal will give AT&T customers access to Fon (Madrid, Spain) networks overseas, while allowing members of the community to use AT&T’s (Dallas, TX, USA) Wi-Fi services in the US.
Fon works by pooling Wi-Fi hotspots provided by the various operators that have signed up to the service, allowing Wi-Fi customers of AT&T, for instance, to use facilities provided by KPN (Amsterdam, Netherlands).
Fon’s deal with AT&T follows its establishment of high-profile partnerships with BT (London, UK) and Deutsche Telekom (Bonn, Germany), and will extend the Fon network by some 30,000 AT&T hotspots located in restaurants, hotels, bookstores and retailers throughout the US.
Meanwhile, AT&T customers who download the operator’s Wi-Fi International App will be able to use Fon-based Wi-Fi services outside the US.
The app allows customers to use up to 1GB of Wi-Fi each month at no additional charge and is available on the iPhone and iPad as well as Android-based devices.
“We are thrilled to team with AT&T to expand the Fon network in the United States,” said Nina Sodhi, the chief executive of Fon US. “AT&T is a communications pioneer and US Wi-Fi leader, and we are happy to be an important part of their global Wi-Fi strategy.”
Expanding the reach of Wi-Fi holds an attraction for large mobile operators by allowing them to move traffic off increasingly congested cellular networks.
Although such offloading could reduce the revenue accruing from mobile data services, the cost of upgrading cellular networks to cope with traffic growth may be a bigger concern.
AT&T, however, chose to foreground the benefits to its customers in commenting on the deal with Fon.
“Our agreement with Fon further expands our international Wi-Fi footprint, making it easier for AT&T customers to stay connected to what matters most during their travels abroad,” said JR Wilson, the vice president of partnerships and alliances for AT&T Mobility.