AT&T said Wednesday that it will soon offer its broadband subscribers unlimited free Wi-Fi access in its hot spots, as well as a new supercharged 10Mbps tier of service.
Free Wi-Fi will be offered only to AT&T broadband subscribers who subscribe to services with 1.5Mbps downloads or higher. Subscribers who only have the company's wireless service will not be offered free Wi-Fi.
This means that users of the iPhone, which has Wi-Fi built in and is exclusively sold in the U.S. for AT&T's network, will only be able to take advantage of the free Wi-Fi offer if they happen to live in a part of the country where AT&T broadband is offered and if they subscribe to that service.
AT&T has more than 10,000 Wi-Fi hot spots in the U.S. in places like airports, McDonald's restaurants, Barnes & Noble bookstores, coffee shops, and sporting venues. The carrier has been offering free Wi-Fi access to its higher-speed broadband customers since last year.
AT&T's move could be seen as a way to entice subscribers to bundle cell phone service with their broadband service. But it might also be an attempt to compete with other cellular providers like T-Mobile, which offers subscribers access to its more than 8,000 Wi-Fi hot spots. T-Mobile also has a service that allows its customers the ability to switch between Wi-Fi and the cell phone network while they are at home.
AT&T also announced it would add a new faster tier of service with 10Mbps downloads and 1.5Mbps uploads to its U-verse customers. U-verse is the newly upgraded network that AT&T is building to deliver TV and broadband over the same Internet connection to the home. Bundled with U-verse TV, the new, faster broadband service costs $55 a month. These subscribers also qualify to receive free Wi-Fi access.