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T-Mobile makes Wi-Fi pact with US airlines

T-Mobile USA is to add "Wi-Fi hot spots" for high-speed wireless Internet connectivity in about 100 US airport clubs and lounges over the next year through an agreement with Delta Airlines, United Airlines and American Airlines.

The agreement is T-Mobile USA's first of its kind with Delta and United, and an extension of a previous agreement with American Airlines.

T-Mobile already has about 40 Wi-Fi hot spots in US airports, 25 of which are in American Airlines facilities.

The clubs and lounges in question are typically reserved for first-class flyers or travellers who buy memberships in them, but T-Mobile would like to extend the connectivity to airport gates, which would expand the coverage to ordinary travelers. To do so, T-Mobile USA would need to get additional airport approvals.

To take advantage of the T-Mobile hot spots, users need to have a notebook computer or a PDA enabled for the Wi-Fi 802.11b connectivity standard and sign up for the T-Mobile service. At present, T-Mobile does not have interoperability agreements in the works with rival Wi-Fi providers.

Moreover, the T-Mobile agreements with the three US airlines are exclusive, so they are contractually bound to offer only T-Mobile hot spots in their clubs and lounges.

T-Mobile already has about 1,800 Wi-Fi hot spots in the US, most of which are at Starbucks coffee shops, and expects to have about 2,100 by the end of the year. The company also plans to install hot spots at Borders bookshops and cafés. Each T-Mobile hot spot has a T1 connection with a top data-transfer speed of 1.5Mbps. Wi-Fi technology has data transfer speeds of up to 11Mbps.

Details of all the service plans are at www.t-mobile.com/hotspot/services_plans.htm.

T-Mobile USA is a member of the T-Mobile International group, which is the mobile telecommunications subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom.

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