No 'Wows' Over Starbucks Wireless

Yesterday T-Mobile, Starbucks and HP announced their new Wi-Fi hotspot venture. 1200 Starbucks locations will offer T-Mobile HotSpot service, with 800 more locations to be lit up by the end of the year. This partnership represents the largest commercial Wi-Fi network in the world. This is one small step in making Wi-Fi ubiquitous and useful outside of homes and enterprises. But some aren’t so impressed, particularly in San Francisco where the three companies held their joint press conference. The general San Francisco reaction is why would anyone pay for something they can often get for free from community networks. Oh and why would anyone walk into a Starbucks, they are an evil corporation. Please. Community networks might be an alternative in San Francisco or New York, but here in Boston, Starbucks is the most convenient Wi-Fi-on-demand solution. And I suspect Boston is not alone in that respect. Plus, communinity networks don’t offer predictable ubiquity. Road warriors need a place to sit and work, that’s hard to do in front of somebody’s home. Many analysts rightly point out though that using T-1 lines instead of DSL, does make each istallation more expensive than maybe justified by actual usage. Also all the press around this has focused on Starbucks. I’m a little dissapointed that T-Mobile hasn’t revealed more about their long term plans for integration of HotSpot with their GSM networks. For exmaple, I’d like the option of getting one single bill for my T-Mobile cellular and HotSpot accounts. But maybe that’s because T-Mobile/Voicestream is up for sale.

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