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T-Mobile and Airport Lounges

In the Wall Street Journal, an article on T-Mobile expanding its Wi-Fi coverage to the airport lounges of the three largest US airlines:

T-Mobile USA Inc., formerly VoiceStream Wireless, is partnering with American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines to let people get high-speed wireless Internet connections in nearly all of the airlines' domestic clubs over the coming year...

The move is also a big step forward for Wi-Fi. T-Mobile's service is already in about 1,800 Starbucks outlets and 25 lounges of AMR Corp.'s American Airlines. But the company's latest plans provide new options to a critical audience: the business traveler.

While analysts are skeptical that many people at an urban coffee shop will pay for Wi-Fi, airport lounges, hotels and convention centers are popular destinations for people who will. Every year, Delta's Crown Room Clubs, for example, gets seven million passenger visits. That could provide T-Mobile, the sixth-largest carrier in the U.S., with a new revenue stream at a time when the industry is ailing. It could also give the company an edge over competitors who haven't yet rolled out Wi-Fi, and are still relying on high-speed wireless networks that can actually be painfully slow...

In addition to the airport expansion, T-Mobile will add the service to another 200 Starbucks and 400 Borders book stores over the next eight months. But it isn't the only player in that game. A company called Wayport Inc. now offers wireless in nine airports (soon to be 10), as well as hundreds of hotels around the U.S., including the Four Seasons and the Marriott. Another firm, Boingo Wireless, has pooled together Wi-Fi networks in hundreds of airports, the lobbies of hotels like the Sheraton, and mom-and-pop cafes across the country.

I've used the T-Mobile Hotspot service (formerly MobileStar at Admirals Clubs many times, and it's well done. I have a pay-as-you-go plan, so I only pay while I'm actually using time, and login typically takes less than 20 seconds from start to finish. It's a great way to catch up on mail between flights. I can recommend it.

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