AT&T extends its free Basic Wi-Fi package to laptop-based mobile broadband subscribers, but not to smartphone users, including iPhones: This is a logical move, vastly overdue, because it's a better experience for a laptop user to have access in a Wi-Fi hotspot, while simultaneously removing load from AT&T's 3G network. This was predicted many years ago--as early as 2001 by EarthLink, Boingo Wireless, and Helio founder Sky Dayton--that 3G spectrum was scarce enough and expensive enough to operate that using Wi-Fi like a local heat sink to bleed usage off would keep 3G usable.
The other advantage, of course, is that 3G laptop users that find themselves out of the HSPA coverage area offered by AT&T don't fall back to EDGE or GPRS as long as they can find an AT&T-included hotspots. No hotspot operator likes to guarantee a particular local network speed, but I know that Wayport--which has or will build nearly all of the 17,000 locations in question here--aims for T-1 speed (1.5 Mbps each way) and quality (guaranteed uptime), depending on availability.
Windows laptop users with AT&T's Communication Manager software (version 6.8) installed will be automatically logged onto hotspots--and, I would guess, logged off 3G whether the user wants that or not! I'll be curious about reports from the field.
A 5G/month ($60/month or greater) plan is requierd for free Wi-Fi service.
The Boy Genius Report quotes what appears to be an internal AT&T memo about today's launch that free Wi-Fi for smartphones is coming later in 2008. Boy Genius has a remarkably good track record for a rumor/leak site, so I'm inclined to believe their report.