Charlotte, N.C. will be the second city added to AT&T's Wi-Fi hotzone pilot program, the wireless carrier announced this week. The program offers free Wi-Fi to customers in select areas in an attempt to bypass network congestion in heavily populated zones.
"Our first AT&T Wi-Fi hotzone in New York City has received praise from our customers, and w're excited to introduce this Wi-Fi solution in Charlotte," Angie Wiskocil, senior vice president of AT&T's Wi-Fi services, said in a statement.
AT&T has found itself under near constant fire for its spotty 3G coverage and inability to keep up with demand for data services on its network. As the exclusive carrier of the iPhone and, more recently, the iPad, AT&T said its mobile data traffic growth has spiked by 5,000 percent in the past three past years.
AT&T hopes to solve the problem by combining Wi-Fi and 3G networks.
AT&T has kicked off a pilot Wi-Fi program in New York City's Times Square that will provide a large outdoor hotspot zone that AT&T users can access with their smartphones, laptops, netbooks, and other Wi-Fi enabled devices. The "hotzone" is a pilot deployment designed to explore the use of Wi-Fi in areas with high 3G traffic and mobile data use, AT&T said.
"Whether they're emailing photos and videos to friends back home, downloading a restaurant review, or ordering discount Broadway tickets online, people in Times Square want the mobile broadband connection that lets them get the most done in the least amount of time," said John Donovan, AT&T chief technology officer. "With this pilot AT&T Wi-Fi hotzone, we're examining new ways to combine our Wi-Fi and 3G networks to help ensure that AT&T customers in Times Square always have a fast mobile broadband connection to do what matters most to them. It's another example of how AT&T is exploring the ideal blend of technologies to maximize the mobile experience for our customers in New York City."
Depending on the results of the pilot location, AT&T said it might deploy additional hotzones in other areas across the country. The one in Times Square is available at no additional charge for some 32 million AT&T customers with qualifying smartphone, 3G LaptopConnect, and AT&T HIgh Speed Internet plans.