AT&T has abruptly dropped out of its relationship with Cometa Networks' offering that involves scores of Wi-Fi hotspots at McDonald's sites in the New York City area.
Users logging onto AT&T's Wi-Fi service page are greeted with the following terse statement: "Thank you for your interest in AT&T Wi-Fi Service. Unfortunately, this service is no longer being offered."
The link between AT&T and Cometa was announced with great hoopla in December of 2002, with IBM and Intel joining in the announcement launching Cometa and its plan to build a 20,000-strong hotspot network across the country.
It was not immediately clear what impact AT&T's move will have, if any, on the Wi-Fi offerings of Cometa--or of AT&T, for that matter. Published reports quoted an AT&T spokesperson as saying that the Wi-Fi arrangement with Cometa was "not a business model it wanted to pursue."
The loss of AT&T follows a decision last November by another telecommunications company, Verizon Communications, to drastically scale back its plans to deploy Wi-Fi by installing transmitters on city pay phones. With more than 300,000 pay phones, Verizon was shaping up as a potent Wi-Fi competitor until it cut back. Verizon later announced its nationwide BroadbandAccess data network, so it remains firmly in the wireless data business.