Ina Fried

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San Francisco Gets a Few More Bars (Of Signal Strength)

Just in time to inadvertently send drunk New Year’s Eve photos to bosses and relatives, the Bay Area is getting a little more wireless coverage.

Sprint on Tuesday is officially announcing that its WiMax-based 4G service is available in San Francisco and San Jose, while AT&T said it is creating a Wi-Fi “hot zone” along San Francisco’s Embarcadero that spans the city’s waterfront. Subscribers to AT&T wireless or high-speed home Internet service can access the Wi-Fi areas for free.

AT&T is also creating more hot zones in New York, bringing improved data service to at least a small part of two major cities where the carrier is often criticized for poor service. The move offers an additional data option, but covers only a small area and won’t really help with dropped calls–a chief complaint among iPhone users in both places.

In New York, the company is expanding the Times Square hot zone launched earlier this year and adding additional ones near Rockefeller Center and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It also has pilot Wi-Fi zones in Charlotte, N.C., and near Wrigley Field in Chicago. AT&T says more than 350,000 wireless connections have been made in the three trial areas so far.

“Our initial AT&T Wi-Fi hotzones have received great customer response and supported high data traffic,” AT&T Chief Technology Officer John Donovan said in a statement. “The pilot demonstrated the clear benefits of having fast and readily-available Wi-Fi options for our customers and our network, and so we have decided to deploy hotzones in more locations.”

As for Sprint, it said WiMax service is now available in San Francisco, San Jose, Palo Alto and Oakland, joining 70 other markets across the country.

“The Bay Area is responsible for creating so much new technology and today we are bringing the power of 4G to our customers in that region who are hungry for fast mobile broadband,” Sprint 4G chief Matt Carter said in a statement.

Clearwire, which sells Wi-Max under the Clear brand and shares technology with Sprint, is also officially launching 4G service in the Bay Area on Tuesday.


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