AT&T Wireless to Include Free Internet Access

  • Share
  • Read Later
AT&T may be derided by some new-economy investors as "America's most useless company," but the telephonic incumbent is still capable of pulling a trick out of its aging but extensive infrastructure. Yesterday AT&T's wireless subsidiary announced its first new product since going public last month: some free Internet access for mobile phone customers.

Despite its product's reliance on an older mobile phone standard (TDMA) than that used by other digital competition such as Sprint and Verizon (CDMA), the AT&T announcement will probably mark a turning point for wireless data in the U.S. Two years ago AT&T changed the mobile phone business when it introduced a plan called Digital One Rate that did away with roaming or long distance charges on calls in the continental U.S. AT&T is able to offer the data services not because it has upgraded its mobile voice network, but because it owns a separate PocketNet data network that operates on a standard called CDPD, usually at speeds of 19.2K per second, or one third the rate of a dial-up modem. (The PocketNet infrastructure is also an important piece of the wireless Internet offerings from companies such as Go America, though the wireless Palm VII uses an altogether different standard.)