Wayport taps GCI to tackle its rivals in wireless arena

AUSTIN, TX: WiFi pioneer Wayport has switched PR firms as "hot spot" competition heats up across the country.

AUSTIN, TX: WiFi pioneer Wayport has switched PR firms as "hot spot" competition heats up across the country.

Edelman's three-year relationship with Wayport dated back to the company's start-up days, but GCI Read-Poland heavily courted the wireless technology provider and ultimately won the account.

Edelman's Texas SVP and GM James Florez described the split as amicable, and the account as small.

GCI sees Wayport as a strategic win, bolstering a wireless portfolio that includes clients like Cingular and Sony Ericsson, said Don Bartholomew, managing director for GCI's Americas technology practice. "WiFi is a really hot market, and Wayport is a client we've had on our radar for a long time," he said.

GCI's work for Wayport will hinge on media relations as competition grows in wireless connectivity. IBM, AT&T, and Intel, for example, joined forces last year to form Cometa Networks, a company providing wholesale access to WiFi hot spots - public areas where computers can make wireless connections to the internet.

GCI's agency-of-record relationship with Dell and work for other Wayport partners figured into the decision, claimed marketing VP Dan Lowden. Dell computers sold this summer come with $100, prepaid Wayport cards.

GCI's strong Austin office also gave it an advantage, Lowden said, although Bartholomew will lead the account out of Dallas. Edelman's Austin presence has waxed and waned, with a technology-focused office closing and a public affairs-heavy office opening last year.

An early WiFi marketer, Wayport stayed independent and solvent as some key competitors went bankrupt or were acquired. Lowden attributed Wayport's success to its open platform and a business model through which clients share costs for establishing hot spots. Wayport serves a dozen airports and more than 500 hotels nationwide.

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