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SBC to deploy Wi-Fi to UPS retail outlets

SBC has announced FreedomLink, a national Wi-Fi hot spot deployment to thousands of UPS and Mail Boxes Etc. retail stores.

The FreedomLink service enables mobile professionals to use laptop computers and personal digital assistants (PDAs) to wirelessly connect to the Internet and corporate networks at speeds 50 to 100 times as fast as a dial-up connection. SBC companies, with support from Wayport Inc., will not only offer Wi-Fi connections, but also wired connections that let customers use the FreedomLink service even if their laptops are not Wi-Fi-enabled. The UPS Store and Mail Boxes Etc. locations are ideally suited for Wi-Fi connectivity since millions of mobile professionals rely on the centers for convenient access to business services such as printing, copying and shipping.

FreedomLink service will be available in more than 1,500 The UPS Store and Mail Boxes Etc. locations by year-end, with installations continuing through 2005. Moving forward, new domestic The UPS Store centers will also be equipped with the service. Currently, there are approximately 3,300 The UPS Store locations, and the total U.S. network is projected to reach 5,000 by 2007.

“The agreement is a giant step forward in our efforts to make FreedomLink service widely available to our customers,” said Ray Wilkins, president, SBC sales and marketing. “FreedomLink complements other SBC services, and our strategy is to aggressively deploy it in various types of venues to enable our customers to enjoy a comparable broadband experience in the home, at the office and on the road. The extensive coverage of The UPS Store and Mail Boxes Etc. network will help us meet the wireless broadband needs of mobile professionals.”

Pilot programs are also under way in Europe to assess the expansion of Wi-Fi hot spots at more than 1,100 Mail Boxes Etc. centers that are located outside the U.S.

Monthly SBC FreedomLink memberships are available for $19.95 and provide unlimited access to all FreedomLink hot spots. Individuals who want walk-up access can purchase a day session for $7.95. A day pass provides unlimited access to FreedomLink hot spots for one calendar day.

The FreedomLink service was launched in late 2003, and the service is expected to strengthen the SBC bundling strategy and help the company attract and retain customers. Today, customers can access the service in venues such as airports, hotels, convention centers and restaurants. The initial deployment, which continues to gain momentum, focused on establishing hot spots in locations where frequent business travelers tended to congregate.

Overall, the plan is to deploy more than 20,000 FreedomLink hot spots in 6,000 venues over the next three years and create an integrated Wi-Fi and third-generation (3G) wireless service to deliver unprecedented coverage that enables customers to enjoy a comparable broadband experience at home, in the office and on the road. SBC companies plan to augment this extensive deployment through roaming agreements with other Wi-Fi service providers.

Customers can view a list of FreedomLink locations and obtain ordering information by visiting www.sbc.com/freedomlink.

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