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On Thursday, AT&T (NYSE:T)  one of North America’s largest mobile carriers that it had agreed to acquire privately-held Wayport, Inc., a leading Wi-Fi broadband internet access provider based in Austin, Texas for approximately $275 million in cash.

The acquisition complements AT&T’s ability to deliver a complete end-to-end solution for businesses worldwide with Wayport’s experience in managing business applications and public access to the Internet over a single network.

The deal also largely expands the number of AT&T WiFi hotspots (venues that offer internet access over a wireless LAN) in the U.S. to nearly 20,000 by adding locations at some Wyndham (NYSE:WYN), Marriott Vacation Club (NASDAQ:MAR) and Four Seasons (FS) hotels; HealthSouth (HLSH) and Sun Healthcare (NASDAQ:SUNH) locations; as well as McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) restaurants.

The integration of Wayport’s operations takes AT&T’s global Wi-Fi presence to more than 80,000 locations, creating thousands of new ways for customers worldwide to stay in touch.

John Stankey, president and CEO, AT&T Operations, said:

We’re seeing exponential growth of Wi-Fi-enabled devices — such as smartphones — combined with a continued dependency on 24/7, anytime, anywhere Internet access across business and consumer market segments. Now is the right time for AT&T to affirm our commitment to Wi-Fi leadership. By acquiring Wayport… we’re bringing ready access to the nation’s leading Wi-Fi, wireless and IP networks — on a global scale.

The combined company will be able to provide a comprehensive solution for businesses seeking converged and managed network capabilities, will deliver a more cost-effective, and streamlined service for enterprises – and their customers.

Dave Vucina, chairman and chief executive officer of Wayport, said:

AT&T’s premier capabilities in both the enterprise and consumer industries will take Wayport’s strength in delivering Wi-Fi solutions over converged networks to an entirely new level.

Nearly 300 million Wi-Fi-enabled devices were shipped in 2007. Nearly 1 billion are predicted by 2012.

AT&T recently allowed its iPhone and BlackBerry Bold customers to get free WiFi access to all of its hotspots in the country.

Disclosure: None

Source: Wayport Acquisition Boosts AT&T’s Worldwide Exposure