AT&T has announced a deal to acquire privately-held Wi-Fi hotspot operator Wayport for approximately $275 million in cash. Wayport operates thousands of Wi-Fi hotspots in locations like Starbucks and McDonalds restaurants, and already runs the back-end operations for AT&T’s own Wi-Fi Hot Spots. The acquisition will expand the number of Wi-Fi hotspots controlled by AT&T to almost 20,000 within the United States.
AT&T sees the move as a way to offer comprehensive communications and data capabilities to its customers, whether over broadband, 3G or EDGE mobile networking, or Wi-FI. It will be making he buy through its AT&T Operations subsidiary.
“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,” said AT&T; Operation president and CEO John Stankey, in a statement. “Now is the right time for AT&T to affirm our commitment to Wi-Fi leadership. By acquiring Wayport, we’re giving consumers more ways to stay in touch and building a more robust network management solution for businesses.”
AT&T is pitching the Wayport acquisition as a leg up for its enterprise customers, and plans to offer comprehensive communications solutions spanning traditional broadband, mobile, and Wi-Fi capabilities. The acquisition’s net effect on consumers remains to be seen: AT&T has been gradually (though unevenly) opening up access to its Wi-Fi network to both its residential, mobile, and business broadband customers.
AT&T expects the deal to close in the fourth quarter of 2008.