NEW YORK (AP) _ Verizon Communications Inc. plans to offer wireless Internet access in busy sections of cities like New York by installing ``WiFi'' equipment in its pay phones, a top Verizon executive said Friday.

After delivering a speech at a wireless security conference in New York, Verizon's vice chairman and president, Lawrence Babbio, was asked whether Verizon would consider turning its pay phones into WiFi ``hot spots'' that radiate Internet access for a few hundred feet, since the phones' wiring can facilitate connections to the Internet.

Babbio responded by saying Verizon expects to announce such a plan shortly.

``All of our pay phone people have already told us'' that the phones would make good wireless access points, Babbio said. ``That will probably be the vehicle we use, probably in Manhattan.''

Verizon spokesman Eric Rabe said details are still being worked out, including where the WiFi service would be offered and how much Verizon would charge for access.

WiFi allows people to share a single Internet connection inexpensively and at high speeds. Thousands of hot spots _ some offering free access, some requiring payment _ have sprung up in cafes, airports, parks and hotels.

Many phone and Internet companies are still cautious about embracing WiFi, which is short for Wireless Fidelity, largely because they have yet to determine whether it can be profitable for them.

However, New York-based Verizon offers WiFi equipment to consumers who buy its DSL high-speed Internet access, and in November began offering to set up WiFi connectivity for small and medium-sized businesses.

Pay phones already have been turned into WiFi hot spots in Toronto and Montreal as part of a test by Bell Canada. Eric Carr, a project manager with InCode Telecom, a technology consulting firm helping Bell Canada, said several independent pay phone companies have inquired about following suit.


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