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AT&T to acquire Wi-Fi network provider Wayport

Wireless provider announces plans to acquire a company that serves up Wi-Fi at a number of hotels, health care facilities, and even McDonald's, in a move to expand its hot-spot presence.

Correction: This post incorrectly stated the number of hot spots Wayport would contribute to the AT&T network, as well as the overall pricing for use of those hot spots. Including Wayport, AT&T will now operate approximately 20,000 hot spots in the United States, free only to customers of certain plans.

AT&T announced plans on Thursday to acquire Wi-Fi network provider Wayport in a $275 million cash deal.

The acquisition will expand AT&T's network of U.S. hot spots, adding locations at hotel chains such as Wyndham, Marriott Vacation Club, and Four Seasons, as well as health care facilities of HealthSouth and Sun Healthcare.

AT&T will also find itself serving Wi-Fi at McDonald's restaurants via the deal, giving it extensive exposure to a wide swath of consumers and rivaling its presence at Starbucks coffee shops, which can be found on virtually every corner in major cities.

With the acquisition, AT&T will increase its total Wi-Fi network to about 80,000 locations worldwide, 20,000 of which will be in the United States.

"We're seeing exponential growth of Wi-Fi-enabled devices, such as smartphones, combined with a continued dependency on 24-7, anytime, anywhere Internet access across business and consumer market segments," John Stankey, chief executive of operations for AT&T, said in a statement.

The telecommunications giant, which is the official U.S. wireless provider for Apple's popular iPhone, last week announced that iPhone users will get free Wi-Fi access at all of its hot-spot locations. AT&T did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding the free usage of the Wayport hot spots to iPhone users.

Under the Wayport deal, AT&T will not only be getting additional hot-spot locations, but also its back-office management provider for its existing footprint of AT&T hot-spot locations. This will bring its Wi-Fi infrastructure entirely under its own roof.

AT&T expects to close the deal as early as this current quarter.