MCI adds thousands of wireless hotspots

MCI Inc. announced Tuesday a major expansion of the number of wireless hotspots available across the globe to its large-business consumers.

The telecommunications carrier has launched 1,300 new Wi-Fi hotspots in Europe and the Asia/Pacific region, and will launch 3,400 hotspots in the U.S. in May, the company said. Corporate customers of MCI's wireless service had access to about 6,200 hotspots worldwide before the new expansions.

In addition to typical Wi-Fi locations such as airports and hotels, the MCI expansion will bring hotspots to new places that MCI customers requested, including cafes, bookstores and business service centers, said Kevin Gatesman, senior manager of emerging technologies at MCI. Some of the new hotspots represent an expansion of options in regions where MCI has already offered service, while others will be in new regions of the U.S. or new countries.

The expanded Wi-Fi network comes through an enhanced agreement between MCI and Boingo Wireless Inc. The new hotspots will primarily be located in the U.S., U.K, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Germany, Hong Kong and Japan. MCI hotspots are now available in several countries where they weren't previously: Greece, Germany, Ireland, Switzerland, Spain, the Philippines and the Hong Kong region of China.

The Wi-Fi service is part of an MCI service for medium-size and large businesses called Remote Access Services, which includes dial-up, virtual private network connections. The MCI service includes a software package that connects users to the Internet using the connection of their choice.

While other carriers offer Wi-Fi access, an advantage of the MCI service is that it ties Wi-Fi, dial-up and broadband wired access together in one package, with thousands of hotspots and connection options, Gatesman said. MCI customers don't need a separate subscription to multiple wireless providers for Wi-Fi access, he said.

The MCI service includes an unlimited Wi-Fi plan for US$40 a month as an add-on to dial-up service. A time-based plan charges $8 an hour for the first hour, with a maximum of $15 a day.

MCI plans to continue expanding the number of hotspots offered in its plan, Gatesman said. "I expect there will be more as we proceed through the rest of 2005 and beyond," he said.

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