Sprint to offer public Wi-Fi access service

Today, Sprint announced plans to offer PCS Wi-Fi Access, a high-speed wireless data service that will enable customers to replicate their desktop environment in key locations across the country. Through a combination of Wi-Fi ZONES built and managed by Sprint and roaming agreements, Sprint plans to provide customers with high-speed Wi-Fi access where they need it most – in public locations such as airports, convention centers and hotels – at speeds 50 times faster than standard dialup. The service is expected to be available later this summer in over 800 locations, with over 2,100 locations planned by the end of the year.

PCS Wi-Fi Access will provide wireless coverage in concentrated public spaces where customers are more likely to be stationary for an extended period of time and have the greatest need for high-speed access to bandwidth-intensive data applications. The service will complement PCS VisionSM services offered on the enhanced Sprint Nationwide PCS Network, currently the largest next generation wireless network in the United States, covering more than 240 million POPs with data speeds averaging 50 to 70 Kbps.

“For the past year, Sprint has provided its customers with the high-speed wireless data service on the largest advanced services network in the country,” said Phil Bowman, vice president, business marketing for the PCS Division of Sprint. “Now, Sprint is raising the bar once again with the launch of PCS Wi-Fi Access and even greater data speeds in select locations. Together, the power of PCS Vision combined with the rapidly growing Wi-Fi market will further increase the overall use of wireless data. PCS Wi-Fi Access is just one more way we are delivering on our vision of anytime, anywhere access to your mission critical information as part of PCS Clear Wireless WorkplaceSM solutions that help increase productivity.”

PCS Connection ManagerSM with Wi-Fi software plays an integral part in making PCS Wi-Fi Access simple, convenient and easy to use. The software is designed to enable customers to travel between disparate Wi-Fi locations all over the country, detect Wi-Fi ZONES compatible with Sprint, and easily connect to their information at multi-megabit speeds on their laptops. The software will also allow customers to access a directory, kept current via over-the-air updates, with a complete list Wi-Fi ZONES compatible with the Sprint service.

PCS Connection Manager with Wi-Fi software will be available in Sprint Stores, through select business channels and online once the service launches. Additionally, customers using the PCS Connection CardTM by AirPrime PC3200 for connectivity via the enhanced Sprint Nationwide PCS Network will be able to take advantage of an enhanced version of PCS Connection ManagerSM with Wi-Fi that conveniently manages both PCS Vision and WLAN connectivity. A separate 802.11b card or laptop with embedded 802.11b technology is required for the Wi-Fi service to work in either case.

Bowman added: “Our business customers have told us that convenient and seamless access to information is critical to increasing productivity of remote employees. While in these strategic Sprint Wi-Fi ZONES, customers will be able to perform all the functions that they would normally do at their desktop PC, and at speeds that can truly replicate the desktop experience. When customers leave a Wi-Fi ZONE and become mobile, they can then access data, check email and browse the Internet via the enhanced Sprint Nationwide PCS Network.”

The new public Wi-Fi service extends the Sprint portfolio of Wi-Fi communication services beyond the private space where the main focus has been assisting enterprise customers with deploying Wi-Fi solutions in office buildings, corporate campuses and branch offices. This also includes businesses that want to make Wi-Fi available for employees, as well as their customers and vendors. Sprint has been successful in two strategic vertical markets – hospitality and education – and has worked with its strategic partner, Cisco Systems, to enable the rapid and smooth deployment of wireless solutions to major hotels such as the Wyndham Hotel chain, and on college campuses including Cleveland-based Case Western Reserve University, one of the nation’s leading independent research universities.

“More and more businesses are rapidly realizing the value of Wi-Fi, or Wireless LAN, as a way to increase employee access to information and applications, which ultimately means increased productivity and a competitive advantage,” said Mark Bowser, senior vice president of sales, Sprint Business. “Sprint is leveraging its core strengths as a fully integrated wireline and wireless communications provider to support the growing needs of our customers with a proven approach to deploy private and public wireless LANs.”

PCS Wi-Fi Access Coverage – Roaming Arrangements and Build-out
Sprint expects to cover 90 percent of all planned public roamable locations through roaming agreements with industry leaders including Airpath Wireless and Wayport.

Airpath Wireless enables 300 Providers with Wi-Fi management solutions in 15 countries around the globe. Airpath Wireless will also provide hosted services to Sprint including credit card authentication services, end user management and integrated customer care. “Airpath is pleased to be chosen by Sprint to provide a carrier-grade Wi-Fi management solution that will enable Sprint to continue to be a leader in the deployment of wireless data networks and technology,” said Todd B. Myers, chairman and CEO of Airpath Wireless, Inc.

Wayport has nearly 500 Wi-Fi locations including many leading hotels such as Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, Loews, Sheraton, Hilton and Marriott, as well as eight major airports including Buffalo Niagara, Dallas-Fort Worth, Seattle-Tacoma, LaGuardia, San Jose, Austin-Bergstrom, Oakland and Minneapolis-St. Paul. “Wayport’s proven expertise in providing Wi-Fi services on a nationwide basis in locations where business travelers need it most makes us a natural partner for Sprint,” said Dave Vucina, CEO of Wayport, Inc. “As part of the PCS Wi-Fi service, Sprint customers will be able to easily find and connect to Wayport-enabled locations to ensure they stay more productive on the road with high-speed connectivity.”

In addition to these roaming locations, Sprint is in negotiations with airports, convention centers, hotels and other public venues to build out its own Wi-Fi infrastructure. In these locations, public access will be provided to Sprint customers as well as customers of other qualified Wi-Fi service providers who have established a roaming agreement with Sprint.

“The Wi-Fi Alliance is pleased to see that a leading wireless carrier like Sprint is establishing Wi-Fi ZONE public access services on such a broad basis,” said Frank Hanzlik, the Wi-Fi Alliance’s managing director. “It has become clear that people want to stay connected with Wi-Fi when they are away from their homes and offices. Sprint will support this demand. It also serves as a strong indicator for the future growth of Wi-Fi ZONE public access services and the key role that carriers play in providing customers with seamless access across hotspots nationwide.”

Initially, customers will be able to subscribe to PCS Wi-Fi Access using their credit cards. In late 2003, Sprint expects to integrate usage charges into the customers’ monthly PCS Service Plan statement. Pricing will be announced once the service becomes available later this summer.

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