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AT&T Wireless Debuts Free Web Access Plan

May 18, 2000|Bloomberg News

AT&T Wireless Group said it plans to offer its customers free, unlimited access to certain Internet sites in a bid to capitalize on expected growth in wireless Web usage. The mobile-telephone unit of AT&T Corp. said customers who use its digital wireless service and buy one of two new phones will get access to 40 Web sites at no extra charge. For $6.99 a month, customers can buy wireless e-mail and fax service. Expanded Web access and personal-organizer functions will be $14.99 a month.

The phones needed for the AT&T Wireless service are made by Ericsson and Mitsubishi Corp. and will cost $99.99 and $199.99, respectively.

The new AT&T service will be available immediately in 3,000 U.S. cities, including those in Los Angeles County. Service in Orange and Riverside counties will follow in the next few months.

Mohan Gyani, chief executive of AT&T Wireless, said he sees an opportunity to boost revenue even from the free service because AT&T will get a cut of any Web transaction its customers complete with their phones. He also said the service, known as PocketNet, should help the company reduce churn, or customers leaving for rival carriers.

Sprint PCS Group, the wireless unit of Sprint Corp., began offering its Wireless Web service in the third quarter of last year. The service costs $9.99 a month for customers who sign up for calling plans of $29.99 or more each month.

Nextel Communications Inc., also a national wireless carrier, offers a service called Nextel Online, developed with investor Microsoft Corp. Nextel's $14.95-a-month service is packet-based and always connected. Sprint's requires a short dial-up or connection time.

AT&T's service, like Nextel's, is packet-based, which is why its customers must buy the new phones.

Shares of New York-based AT&T Wireless closed unchanged at $29 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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