Starbucks has decided to change Wi-Fi flavors, switching from the pay-as-you-go T-Mobile HotSpot relationship coffee drinkers are using now to a new alliance with AT&T where it says it can offer a mix of free and paid wireless Internet service in more than 7,000 Starbucks’ stores, beginning in March. The key to free wireless appears to be the Starbucks purchase card. Starbucks said it will give customers who use its Starbucks card two hours of free wireless access per day. After that, it will cost $3.99 for a two-hour session. Monthly memberships will cost $19.99 and include access to any of AT&T’s 70,000 hot spots worldwide.
Nearly all of AT&T’s broadband Internet customers will automatically have unlimited free Wi-Fi access at Starbucks.
Current T-Mobile HotSpot customers, who pay anywhere from $6 per hour-long session to $9.99 for a day pass to $39.99 a month for unlimited access, will get Wi-Fi access at no extra charge through an agreement between AT&T and T-Mobile.
Chris Bruzzo, Starbucks’ chief technology officer, would not disclose how many customers use the T-Mobile service in Starbucks stores, but said he expects many more will use the new service. Starbucks will begin rolling it out this spring and aims to have it available in its more than 7,000 company-operated domestic stores by the end of the year.
AT&T has powered the network service Starbucks uses to run its cash registers and other computer systems for years.
Last month, AT&T announced plans to make its 10,000 Wi-Fi hotspots free to nearly all of its broadband Internet customers. The move expanded access to include subscribers who have a lower tier of high-speed Internet service, increasing to 12 million the number of broadband customers who can use the hotspots free of charge. Previously, only subscribers to AT&T’s premium broadband service had free access.
The Feb. 11 announcement boosts the number of AT&T hotspots in the U.S. to 17,000 — the most in the nation.
AT&T also is giving Starbucks more than 100,000 U.S. employees free wireless accounts, and said it will soon extend the Wi-Fi at Starbucks to its wireless phone customers. The company announced no details or time frame for the expansion. [24×7]