In a move to get their New York City customers online (and divert traffic away from their overcrowded 3G network), AT&T has announced a Wi-Fi “hotzone” program that aims to cover broader areas with Wi-Fi, starting with the ever-busy Times Square.
AT&T has installed Wi-Fi service in the north central part of Times Square, near 7th Avenue between 45th and 47th Street, to provide a large outdoor hotspot zone that AT&T users can access using any Wi-Fi enabled device. The AT&T Wi-Fi hotzone at Times Square is available at no additional charge for nearly 32 million AT&T customers with qualifying smartphone, 3G LaptopConnect and AT&T High Speed Internet plans.
If you’re one of their NYC customers who is constantly losing your connection, this should be welcomed news. Even if you don’t take advantage of it directly, you should be helped indirectly by other people offloading data to Wi-Fi, clearing up traffic on the 3G network. If this pilot program takes off, they plan to cover other busy areas. (Perhaps even blanketing the whole city in Wi-Fi? Maybe San Francisco can use this as new incentive to revive their municipal Wi-Fi plan?)
What they don’t list, wisely so, are the speeds their Wi-Fi hotzone could supply. In my own local, limited testing, I’ve noticed AT&T’s hotspots are not much faster than their 3G, which is the slower version on my iPhone 3G not the 3GS. Makes me wonder how many people will see slower speeds in the hotzone, though that’s still better than the zero speeds some folks are getting.