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Starbucks Serves Up Free WiFi

Date: 2/23/2008 1:11:18 PM

Whats going on at Starbucks? First its slumping sales, then a $1 cup of Joe, now its free WiFi.

McDonalds and other fastfood chains have been cutting into Starbucks business and the coffee giant is fighting back.

The pricey coffee shop chain has announced its dropping TMobile as its Internet provider and replacing it with AT&T, which will offer free Web browsing to Starbucks cardholders at 7,000 companyowned stores in the U.S.

Starbucks, which recently tested a $1 cup of coffee at its Seattlearea stores to compete with McDonalds, will allow customers to use its broadband connections for up to two hours per day at no charge. More than 12 million qualifying AT&T broadband and AT&T Uverse Internet customers will have unlimited free access to the WiFi service.

In addition, more than 5 million of AT&Ts remote access services business customers will be able to access WiFi service at Starbucks locations. AT&T said it will soon extend the benefits of WiFi at Starbucks to its wireless customers.

Currently at Starbucks, TMobile HotSpot customers pay $6 per hour, $9.99 for a day pass or $39.99 a month for unlimited access. Consumers still using TMobile after the switchover will get WiFi access at no extra charge through an agreement between AT&T and TMobile.

People want to stay connected to their world 24/7, and WiFi hot spots, broadband and wireless make that mobility possible, said Rick Welday, AT&T chief marketing officer, Consumer. Laptops and smartphones give us the online mobility we crave, and now millions of AT&T and Starbucks customers will get Internet access free from the comfort of their neighborhood Starbucks.

This is what our customers have been waiting for — free Starbucksquality WiFi, said Chris Bruzzo, chief technology officer, Starbucks Coffee Company. Through our new partnership with AT&T, we also welcome their millions of current customers who can now come in and enjoy free WiFi as part of their daily Starbucks Experience.

TMobile phaseout
Currently, to use a computer at Starbucks, consumers must have a TMobile wireless account. Beginning this spring, TMobile will be phased out and all Starbucks partners will receive free AT&T WiFi accounts allowing them to use the network in Starbucks companyoperated locations offering WiFi access.

Our new relationship with AT&T gives us the opportunity to expand and enhance the range of digital entertainment experiences for our customers as well as our partners, including the continued rollout of the iTunes WiFi Music Store at Starbucks, said Ken Lombard, president, Starbucks Entertainment.

In addition to the free WiFi access for qualifying AT&T customers and any Starbucks Card holder, customers without a Starbucks card will be able to purchase tiered access to the AT&T WiFi network at Starbucks at attractive price points. For a twohour period, customers will pay $3.99 per session. Monthly membership will also be available for $19.99 per month, and will include access to any of AT&Ts 70,000 hot spots in 89 countries around the world, the carrier said.

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