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Verizon Wireless fires up hot spots

The service provider announces a Wi-Fi service for its customers in hundreds of hot spot locations throughout the nation.

Verizon Wireless on Tuesday announced Wi-Fi service for its customers in hundreds of hot spot locations throughout the nation.

The service provider is collaborating with Wayport, a company that offers nationwide wireless Internet access using the 802.11b standard.

Verizon said the new service will expand and speed up its wireless data service coverage in high-traffic spots that attract travelers, such as hotels and airports. Customers will be able to open large applications and download large images and graphics with peak speeds of 1.544mbps, the company said.

However, it added that actual speeds would vary depending on distance from the hot spot and the number of users. The company is charging $7 to use the service for 24 hours. Unlimited monthly access costs $35.

"As Verizon customers increasingly rely on high-speed wireless service to meet their data needs, they will search out Wayport locations that offer Wi-Fi connectivity, and through this agreement, Verizon Wireless customers will gain immediate access to Wayport's neutral-host locations nationwide," Wayport CEO Dave Vucina, said in a statement.

U.S. carriers are making deals with Wi-Fi providers to allow customers to use their services at thousands of hot spots across the nation. Some operators, such as AT&T Wireless and Sprint PCS, want to allow their customers to roam freely among different networks. But hot spot operators Cometa and T-Mobile USA prefer to keep their locations off-limits to major competitors.

Hot spots have not been restricted to hotels and airports. McDonald's announced last week that 75 of its fast-food restaurants in the New York area will be covered by a high-speed wireless network.

Verizon said it is giving customers free software that will automatically detect when they are in range of a hot spot location. The software will also let customers access the Wi-Fi service.

"Our service includes flexible pricing options, one simple bill, network monitoring and customer support to best meet the needs of our customers," John Stratton, chief marketing officer for Verizon Wireless, said in the statement.