In one of the nation’s largest commercial Wi-Fi hot spot deployments, SBC Communications Inc. today announced that its FreedomLink Wi-Fi service will be made available at thousands of The UPS Store locations in the United States. This innovative technology will also be offered in domestic Mail Boxes Etc. stores, which are part of the UPS retail network. Adding FreedomLink to the array of business services provided by The UPS Store and Mail Boxes Etc. enhances the stores’ roles as “branch offices” for mobile workers.
The FreedomLink service enables mobile professionals to use laptop computers and personal digital assistants (PDAs) to wirelessly connect to the Internet and corporate networks at speeds 50 to 100 times as fast as a dial-up connection. SBC companies, with support from Wayport Inc., will not only offer Wi-Fi connections, but also wired connections that let customers use the FreedomLink service even if their laptops are not Wi-Fi-enabled. The UPS Store and Mail Boxes Etc. locations are ideally suited for Wi-Fi connectivity since millions of mobile professionals rely on the centers for convenient access to business services such as printing, copying and shipping.
FreedomLink service will be available in more than 1,500 The UPS Store and Mail Boxes Etc. locations by year-end, with installations continuing through 2005. Moving forward, new domestic The UPS Store centers will also be equipped with the service. Currently, there are approximately 3,300 The UPS Store locations, and the total U.S. network is projected to reach 5,000 by 2007.
“The agreement is a giant step forward in our efforts to make FreedomLink service widely available to our customers,” said Ray Wilkins, president, SBC sales and marketing. “FreedomLink complements other SBC services, and our strategy is to aggressively deploy it in various types of venues to enable our customers to enjoy a comparable broadband experience in the home, at the office and on the road. The extensive coverage of The UPS Store and Mail Boxes Etc. network will help us meet the wireless broadband needs of mobile professionals.”
“Wi-Fi technology is a fitting enhancement to the portfolio of business services that make The UPS Store and Mail Boxes Etc. a reliable network of ‘satellite offices’ for business people on the go,” said Stuart Mathis, president, Mail Boxes Etc., Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of UPS and franchiser of The UPS Store and Mail Boxes Etc. centers. “Millions of mobile workers and business travelers rely on The UPS Store and Mail Boxes Etc. for an array of business services, which is why these locations make ideal hot spots for wireless Internet access.”
Mathis added that pilot programs are also under way in Europe to assess the expansion of Wi-Fi hot spots at more than 1,100 Mail Boxes Etc. centers that are located outside the U.S.
Monthly SBC FreedomLink memberships are available for $19.95 and provide unlimited access to all FreedomLink hot spots. Individuals who want walk-up access can purchase a day session for $7.95. A day pass provides unlimited access to FreedomLink hot spots for one calendar day.
The FreedomLink service was launched in late 2003, and the service is expected to strengthen the SBC bundling strategy and help the company attract and retain customers. Today, customers can access the service in venues such as airports, hotels, convention centers and restaurants. The initial deployment, which continues to gain momentum, focused on establishing hot spots in locations where frequent business travelers tended to congregate.
The agreement marks the launch of the second stage of the SBC deployment – reaching venues regularly visited by local mobile professionals such as small business owners, sales reps, repair technicians and real estate agents. The next step for the company is to begin making FreedomLink service available to the mass market. During this stage, FreedomLink hot spots will be placed in venues that serve a broad cross-section of consumers and business professionals.
Overall, the plan is to deploy more than 20,000 FreedomLink hot spots in 6,000 venues over the next three years and create an integrated Wi-Fi and third-generation (3G) wireless service to deliver unprecedented coverage that enables customers to enjoy a comparable broadband experience at home, in the office and on the road. SBC companies plan to augment this extensive deployment through roaming agreements with other Wi-Fi service providers.
The first SBC roaming agreement is with Wayport, a leading Wi-Fi service provider based in Austin, Texas. Once activated in early Spring 2004, the roaming agreement will let SBC customers access Wayport services in roughly 800 locations nationwide, including hotels, airports and restaurants. Wayport is also assisting SBC companies with the deployment of FreedomLink service in The UPS Store and Mail Boxes Etc. locations.
“The deployment of SBC FreedomLink service in The UPS Store and Mail Boxes Etc. locations is a huge win for mobile professionals as well as for the Wi-Fi industry as a whole,” said Dave Vucina, CEO of Wayport. “Wayport’s role as a managed service provider for SBC is just one of the important components of our core strategy in delivering the industry’s best Wi-Fi experience.”
Customers can view a list of FreedomLink locations and obtain ordering information by visiting www.sbc.com/freedomlink.