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04/26/2010 AT&T: Wi-Fi Use Quintuples

AT&T says 53.1 million connections were made to its Wi-Fi network in the first quarter, a five-fold increase over last year when just 10.7 million connections were made.

"We know that Wi-Fi is an essential part of our customers' broadband experience, bridging our wireless and wired broadband networks, and we're making sure people can connect to Wi-Fi everywhere they live, work and play," AT&T Wi-Fi Services Senior Vice President Angie Wiskocil said in a statement.

AT&T has an extensive Wi-Fi network comprised of more than 20,000 hot spots it can use to offload traffic from its cellular network, a strategy that can be used to handle subscribers' data demands.

"It's in the carrier's best interest to offload it to a wired network wherever they can," says ABI Research analyst Phil Solis. "It's necessary to push as much traffic as possible off of their radio network onto a wired network via Wi-Fi."

AT&T appears to be doing just that. The carrier said that almost 70 percent of the Wi-Fi connections made to its network came from smartphones and integrated devices in the first quarter. Last year, those devices comprised just 35 percent of the connections made to AT&T's Wi-Fi network.

By the end of the first quarter, AT&T said nearly 32 million of its customers had Wi-Fi access included with their smartphone.

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