U.S. telecom giant AT&T (T) has reportedly expanded its worldwide Wi-Fi (wireless broadband) presence by adding nearly 25,000 more hotspots across Europe and China. With this addition, the second largest US wireless carrier has expanded its global Wi-Fi hotspot count to 125,000, reflecting approximately 30% growth since the beginning of 2009. This expansion further validates the company’s leadership in Wi-Fi.

The newly added hotspots will enable AT&T’s enterprise customers in countries across Europe and China to connect their corporate networks with more locations, including airports, hotels, restaurant and bookstores. Furthermore, the company has announced enhancements to the AT&T Global Network Client remote access software (which enables Wi-Fi users to connect to their corporate networks) that includes support for Microsoft’s (MSFT) latest operating system, Windows 7.

AT&T expanded its Wi-Fi coverage locations with the acquisition of Texas-based Wayport Inc., a leading Wi-Fi service provider, in December 2008 for $275 million. The acquisition increased the company’s Wi-Fi hotspots to nearly 20,000 in the U.S. (the highest of any domestic provider) and over 100,000 globally. Furthermore, this has provided increased support for the company’s Wi-Fi enabled handsets such as iPhone and BlackBerry.

AT&T is increasingly focused on expanding the number of Wi-Fi hotspots available to its customers globally and enhancing connectivity for its high-end smartphone users. Wi-Fi represents an important strategic opportunity for the company, as the number of Wi-Fi enabled wireless handsets is expected to increase by 175% through 2011.

Wi-Fi access of AT&T’s smartphone subscribers has dramatically increased in the recent times as the company had 25.6 million Wi-Fi connections in the first-half of 2009 compared to 20 million registered for full-year 2008. Moreover, the number of Wi-Fi connections on AT&T’s US network grew 41% sequentially in the last quarter reaching nearly 15 million connections.

We feel the company’s aggressive expansion strategy with respect to Wi-Fi will further solidify its competitive position against its principal rival Verizon (VZ), which has so far demonstrated a blasé attitude in this area.
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