MOA plugs in, will have free Wi-Fi by holiday season

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It's one of the largest shopping malls in the country, but the Mall of America has been slow to get with the times by offering free Wi-Fi Internet access to its customers.

That's expected to change soon, as officials say they plan to have free Wi-Fi in place at the Bloomington megamall in time for this year's holiday shopping season, WCCO reports.

Many other local shopping malls already provide Wi-Fi, including Southdale, Ridgedale and the Premium Outlet Mall in Eagan, according to the Star Tribune. Wi-Fi is typically cheaper for people to use to access the Internet than their cellphone service.

People are using their smartphones more and more when they're out shopping, to search for store information or make purchases online. In the case of MOA, shoppers often want to look at a map of the mall on their phones.

Many stores and restaurants at MOA offer free Wi-Fi, but since the service isn't offered throughout the mall, users can't stay logged in to the same network while they walk from place to place.

And customers have been complaining about that.

Apparently the plans have been in the works for quite some time - MOA officials announced more than a year ago that the Wi-Fi network would be up and running by late 2014, according to Mobile Commerce Daily.

So why is it taking so long? Jill Renslow, a vice president at Mall of America, told the Star Tribune there are several factors: the huge size of the mall; the need to be able to expand the network in the future; and the ability to determine a shopper's location within the mall.

Along with the new Wi-Fi, mall officials hope to unveil a new smartphone app for the holiday shopping season, the newspaper notes.

They're also aiming to add a curbside pickup service, so customers can purchase items online and pick them up at the mall without having to leave their vehicles.

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