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Wed, Feb 13, 2008 - Page 10 News List

Starbucks, AT&T to provide mix of free, paid wireless


Starbucks Corp and AT&T Inc will start offering a mix of free and paid wireless Internet service in most of the global coffee retailer's US shops beginning this spring.

The move ended a six-year Starbucks partnership with T-Mobile, which did not include free Wi-Fi and charged higher fees than AT&T will.z

Starbucks said it will give customers who use a Starbucks purchase card two hours of free wireless access per day.

More time than that will cost US$3.99 for a two-hour session. Monthly memberships will cost US$19.99 and include access to any of AT&T's 70,000 hotspots worldwide.

Nearly all of AT&T's broadband Internet customers, about 12 million, will automatically have unlimited free Wi-Fi access at Starbucks, the companies said.

The deal boosts the number of AT&T hotspots in the US to 17,000 -- the most in the nation.

"We're very excited about what we're doing together to align ourselves with what consumers want," said Rick Welday, a chief marketing officer for AT&T's consumer business.

Starbucks' switch to AT&T is a big blow for T-Mobile, which has nearly 8,900 wireless hotspots in the US, most of them in the coffee company's stores. T-Mobile also offers its subscription wireless service in Borders Books and Music stores, FedEx Kinko's stores, various hotels, airports and airline clubs.

In a statement on Monday, Joe Sims, T-Mobile USA's vice president and general manager of broadband products and services, said the company's customers "will continue to benefit from our commitment to remain the innovation leader for consumer Wi-Fi."

T-Mobile HotSpot customers -- who pay US$6 per one-hour-session, US$9.99 for a day pass or up to US$39.99 a month for unlimited access -- will get Wi-Fi access at no extra charge under a roaming agreement between AT&T and T-Mobile.

T-Mobile USA said the roaming agreement would last at least five years.

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