Cingular jumps into Wi-FI market with Wayport, others: The other shoe dropped. Cingular is 60 percent owned by SBC, which has the most ambitious, well-priced, and comprehensive plan of any of the telephone carriers, fixed line or wireless. And I'm not just saying that because I'm writing these words in Austin, Texas, SBC's real home territory. Cingular announced that their Wi-Fi plan will include all of Wayport's roaming network, apparently not including the McDonald's locations. They also made deals with StaOnline (hotels) and Concourse (airports). Cingular took over AT&T Wireless's locations after the merger, which include Denver International Airport and northeast corridor Amtrak stations.
The deal doesn't mention SBC FreedomLink, which has several thousand of its own locations now, but I would expect that to be included at some point, especially since Wayport builds and manages those locations, so integration should be trivial. And Cingular isn't reselling its locations back out to other operators or aggregators beyond those deals that are already in place.
The announcement tries to focus on EDGE, the nationwide deployed 2.5G service that AT&T Wireless had completed before the merger, and was one of its gems. EDGE will eventually migrate north to UMTS and then HSDPA with much faster speeds. EDGE delivers dial-up modem or better, with rates up above 100 Kbps, but it's certainly still trumped by EVDO basic double to quadruple rate with much higher bursty rates. (See Mike Masnick's remarks in the comments that Cingular is leapfrogging UMTS and abandoning its AT&T Wireless UMTS customers and markets. I'm not sure I believe this will happen, frankly.)
Which is why it's a little weird that Cingular is pricing unlimited EDGE at $80 per month with an extra $20 per month bringing you unlimited Wi-Fi at 4,000 locations. True, Cingular has the highest-speed national network with EDGE, but that's like saying, we can bring you a 4 oz. beef patty everywhere when the competitor is delivering a small but juicy steak at the same price but just in certain outlets and a 2 oz. beef patty elsewhere (1xRTT with fast dial-up speeds). There's a market decision here that might be based on appearance rather than producing demand especially since Cingular says in the press release EDGE and Wi-Fi are being sold through its business group not to general consumers.