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Friday, November 07, 2008, 03:00 pm PT (06:00 pm ET)

AT&T acquisition broadens iPhone hotspots

AT&T has acquired WiFi provider Wayport for $275 million in cash, adding thousands of new wireless hotspots to the company's network that was recently opened to free access by iPhone users.

AT&T now boasts 20,000 access points in the US and 80,000 internationally, although that number also includes roaming locations run by partner networks. Wayport's network includes hotspots at McDonalds, Four Seasons hotels, HealthSouth, and Sun Healthcare locations.

The company's map of WiFi locations includes the new locations along with AT&T's existing hotspot networks at Starbucks, Barnes and Noble book stores, and many major airports across the country.

AT&T had been contracting with Wayport to run its existing WiFi network, but says the acquisition will enable it to expand its capabilities as it brings all management of WiFi infrastructure in house.

In addition to adding more WiFi hotspots to its network, AT&T has also committed to providing a tethering plan for iPhone users that would enable them to use their handsets as 3G network access points for their mobile computer. The company already offers a similar plan for its Blackberry subscribers.