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Sprint widens Wi-Fi reach

The U.S. carrier signs a roaming deal with wireless service provider Wayport that allows it to offer Wi-Fi hot-spot access to the Internet in another 685 public spaces.

Sprint has announced a new service that enables its wireless customers to use hundreds of Wi-Fi hot spots in hotels, airport lobbies and other public spaces across the United States.

The cellular carrier said Tuesday that the service, called PCS Wi-Fi Access, provides access to the Internet in more than 685 locations--including McDonald's restaurants--through a roaming agreement with wireless Internet provider Wayport. Customers are also able to access Airpath Wireless service in certain locations.

The Wi-Fi service is also available at the Connecticut casino Mohegan Sun, Sprint's first own public outlet for wireless services, the Overland Park, Kan.-based company said. Later this year, Sprint intends to add Wi-Fi service in Seattle, through 250 hot spots run by Cometa Networks. Sprint hopes to offer PCS Wi-Fi Access in more than 2,100 locations by early 2004.

"Providing PCS Wi-Fi Access at these high-traffic public locations will give our customers the ability to quickly and easily open e-mails, download and send large files, and access complex databases and directories," Phil Bowman, vice president of business marketing for Sprint's PCS unit, said in a statement.

PCS Wi-Fi Access is backed by software that detects compatible Wi-Fi zones and connects users to the Internet or to their company networks, according to Sprint. It provides signal strength indicators and latest directory of available Wi-Fi zones across the country.

Verizon Wireless, AT&T Wireless, SBC Communications and other phone service providers have entered into similar agreements with Wayport, based in Austin, Texas.

The PCS Wi-Fi Access service is priced at $9.95 per connection, per location for 24 hours of unlimited access, according to Sprint. Through Dec. 31, subscribers are being offered a discount of $3 on all connections.