After spending billions to own chunks of spectrum, you would think U.S. cellular telephone operators would have every reason to resist the proliferation of unlicensed wireless-data networks. In fact, the opposite is proving true. Cell operators are exploring ways to exploit unlicensed wireless bandwidth, despite the billions waiting to be invested in frequencies for 3G (third-generation) cell data services.
Cell operators are buying into hot-spot networks, rolling out experiments, and trying to hurry the day when they can offload their heaviest data exchanges to the free airwaves. AT&T Wireless Services has a trial hot-spot network, Sprint PCS has invested in hot-spot aggregator Boingo Wireless Inc., Verizon Wireless Inc. will soon resell access to Wayport Inc.'s hotel and airport network, and T-Mobile USA Inc. is approaching 2,500 Wi-Fi locations nationwide.
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