AT&T reported today that the use of its more than 20,000 U.S. Wi-Fi hotspots surged to 53.1 million connections in the first quarter, which is nearly five times higher than the 10.7 million connections made in the first quarter last year, and more than half of the 85.5 million total Wi-Fi connections made in 2009.
AT&T attributes the surge to the rise in smartphone usage. As customers turn to Wi-Fi enabled smartphones and devices, like iPhone and Android phones, they are increasingly relying on Wi-Fi hotspots to stay connected when they’re on the go.
At the end of the first quarter, the company reported that nearly 32 million AT&T customers had Wi-Fi access included with their smartphones, high speed internet and 3G LaptopConnect plans. And in the first quarter of 2010, 69 percent of Wi-Fi connections were made from smartphones and integrated devices, up from 35 percent a year ago in the first quarter of 2009.
AT&T also reported that the total number of AT&T broadband connections, which includes both wireline broadband and wireless LaptopConnect cards, grew by 278,000 in the first quarter to reach 17.5 million in service.
Yesterday, the communications giant reported a slight increase in revenue, as the company continued to add more wireless customers. AT&T added 1.9 million new wireless subscribers in the quarter, the biggest first-quarter gain in the company’s history. Of course, not everything is rosy with AT&T’s network; the 3G network in San Francisco and New York has been notoriously unreliable.