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Dec. 28 (Bloomberg) -- AT&T Inc. is expanding its free wireless-Internet service to more public areas in New York and San Francisco to help relieve its mobile-phone network in two of the most congested U.S. cities.

The company will widen the reach of its Wi-Fi service in Times Square following a trial there and is adding so-called hotspots around Rockefeller Center, according to a statement today. The second-largest U.S. mobile-phone carrier also plans a hotspot near San Francisco’s Embarcadero Center shopping area.

AT&T has said the prevalence of data-hungry devices such as the Apple Inc. iPhone has led to network congestion in some cities, particularly New York and San Francisco. The company, which competes against Verizon Wireless, is also upgrading its mobile-phone network to improve performance.

AT&T, based in Dallas, said it handled 106.9 million connections on its Wi-Fi networks in the third quarter, compared with 85.5 million during all of last year.

Wi-Fi will be available free to users with enabled devices on AT&T’s network. The carrier also offers Wi-Fi service in numerous coffee shops and mailing centers, according to its website.

AT&T dropped 2 cents to $29.23 at 4 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares have risen 4.3 percent this year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Bensinger in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Elstrom at

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