AT&T Inc. (T) said it is expanding its Wi-Fi access in New York around Times Square and introducing it in San Francisco, near the waterfront.

The carrier is also expanding its new hotzones near Rockefeller Center and St. Patrick's Cathedral. AT&T plans to launch its next Wi-Fi hotzone in San Francisco's popular Embarcadero Center.

The larger Times Square hotzone will now cover the north central part of Times Square along 7th Avenue, east along 46th Street, and along Broadway. New hotzones near Rockefeller Center and St. Patrick's Cathedral are planned to launch in the coming days, AT&T said in a statement.

Earlier this year, AT&T deployed Wi-Fi hotzones in New York City's Times Square, downtown Charlotte, N.C., and Chicago's Wrigleyville as part of its pilot project to explore using Wi-Fi to supplement mobile broadband in urban areas with consistently high mobile broadband use. In just a few months during the pilot, AT&T customers made more than 350,000 connections at the three hotzones.

AT&T, the nation’s no.2 wireless carrier after Verizon Wireless, will be adding data capacity in New York and San Francisco with heavy wireless network use from the iPhone and other devices.

Our initial AT&T Wi-Fi hotzones have received great customer response and supported high data traffic, said John Donovan, AT&T chief technology officer. The pilot demonstrated the clear benefits of having fast and readily-available Wi-Fi options for our customers and our network, and so we have decided to deploy hotzones in more locations.

We're excited to start the next phase of our hotzone program with additional Wi-Fi coverage areas in New York City and, soon, in San Francisco, said Angie Wiskocil, senior vice president, AT&T Wi-Fi Services. AT&T Wi-Fi will be available across a wider area for Manhattan residents, visitors and New Year's Eve revelers during the busy holiday season and beyond. Plus, San Francisco residents are expected to soon be able to enjoy a Wi-Fi hotzone in the Embarcadero Center area as they shop, dine and work.

Hotzones enhance the broadband experience for AT&T customers who use Wi-Fi enabled devices. Wi-Fi hotzones provide another fast and reliable way for customers to stay connected from their mobile devices, adding data network capacity in high traffic areas.

Wi-Fi is a trademark of the Wi-Fi Alliance. A Wi-Fi enabled device such as a personal computer, video game console, smartphone or digital audio player can connect to the Internet when within range of a wireless network connected to the Internet.

The coverage of one or more (interconnected) access points — called hotspots — generally comprises an area the size of a few rooms but may be expanded to cover many square miles, depending on the number of access points with overlapping coverage.

AT&T claims it operates the nation's largest Wi-Fi network, based on company branded and operated hotspots.

The Dallas-Texas-based AT&T has more than 23,000 hotspots in the U.S. and provides access to more than 125,000 hotspots globally through roaming agreements. AT&T handled 106.9 million Wi-Fi connections on its network, exceeding the total 85.5 million connections made during the entire year in 2009.

Most AT&T smartphone customers get access to its entire national Wi-Fi network at no additional cost, and Wi-Fi usage doesn't count against customers' monthly data plans.

In a separate release Monday, AT&T announced the availability of its mobile broadband network in central Maine.

The expansion would allow advanced mobile services, devices and feature-rich audio and video content to customers in Auburn, Augusta, Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, Durham, Farmingdale, Georgetown, Greene, Litchfield, Monmouth, Manchester, Oakland, Phippsburg, Richmond, Sabattus, Sidney, Waterville, West Gardiner, Wiscasset, and Woolrich.

Demand for wireless bandwidth is growing rapidly, whether it's for sharing video and photos with friends, watching a movie, checking the latest scores, or listening to music on a phone, netbook or other on-the-go devices, said Steve Krom, vice president and general manager, AT&T New England.

Customers in 22 states use AT&T-branded telephone, Internet, and computer telephone services; it also sells digital TV under the U-verse brand. The company’s key markets include California, Illinois, and Texas.