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AT&T offers DSL subscribers free Wi-Fi

AT&T DSL subscribers will get free access to the carrier's Wi-Fi hot spots in airports and coffee shops around the country.

AT&T DSL subscribers can now get free access to its Wi-Fi hot spots throughout the country.

Subscribers of services that offer download speeds of 3 megabits per second or higher will get access to any of its 10,000 hot spots in airports, coffee shops, McDonald's restaurants and Barnes & Noble bookstores for free, the company said Monday.

Subscribers of AT&T's lower tier service can pay $1.99 for unlimited Wi-Fi access. Non-AT&T subscribers pay $7.99 per day for Wi-Fi access in these public hot spots.

Adding Wi-Fi as part of the total broadband package for DSL subscribers fits in well with AT&T's overall strategy of allowing people to connect to the Internet anywhere, using any device.

The bulk of AT&T's wireless efforts have been in expanding its 2.5G and 3G cellular networks. But the company also sees a place for Wi-Fi. In fact, AT&T is actually building a municipal Wi-Fi network in Springfield, Ill. And it's a contender to build a similar network in Chicago.

But unlike competitor T-Mobile, AT&T doesn't seem to have plans to use Wi-Fi to carry voice traffic. Earlier this month, T-Mobile, the smallest of the major wireless operators in the U.S., announced it is offering a dual mode Wi-Fi/cellular service throughout the country. This service essentially enables people to switch between a Wi-Fi and cellular network while they're talking on the phone.

Instead of a replacement for its voice network, AT&T seems to see Wi-Fi as a way to provide fast Internet surfing to people on the go. A perfect example of this strategy is the new Apple iPhone, which only operates on AT&T's 2.5G cellular network that offers data downloads that peak around 200 kilobits per second. But the iPhone also supports Wi-Fi, which allows people who are within range of a Wi-Fi hot spot to surf the mobile Net at true broadband speeds.