T-Mobile Sues Starbucks For Over Eager Switch To Free WiFi

from the that-wasn't-what-we-bargained-for... dept

Back in February, Starbucks surprised an awful lot of people by signing up to use AT&T’s WiFi offering, ending the exclusive deal it had for many, many years with T-Mobile (and Mobilestar before T-Mobile purchased that company). Part of the AT&T deal was that it would offer some amount of free WiFi — something T-Mobile/Starbucks never did. There was some early confusion about the deal concerning whether T-Mobile would continue offering service and how the two services would overlap. It turns out that it wasn’t just confusing to us reading about it — it was confusing to T-Mobile as well.

T-Mobile has now sued Starbucks over the transition, saying that the company has gone well beyond what the two companies had agreed to. The original plan was that T-Mobile would gradually transition the network to AT&T, and the companies would work together to make sure things worked well for customers of each company. However, just recently, Starbucks pushed forward with the plan to offer some number of “free” WiFi hours to AT&T customers — much to the annoyance of T-Mobile, who says most of the WiFi equipment in use is still T-Mobile’s, and the company isn’t getting paid at all for the free hours (an interesting question could be whether or not AT&T is getting paid for that usage).

Basically, the infrastructure transition has barely begun, and Starbucks is already acting as though it’s complete, shifting over to the business model provided by AT&T, without having that work within the parameters of T-Mobile’s model. While the legal result will almost certainly come down to contractual terms, the real issue may be that this suggests the promised “smooth transition” from T-Mobile to AT&T may not be very smooth at all. T-Mobile is going to have less and less incentive to make sure that the network really works all that well, especially if it feels that it’s being cheated out of money for the use of its network.

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Companies: at&t, starbucks, t-mobile

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Comments on “T-Mobile Sues Starbucks For Over Eager Switch To Free WiFi”

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joe (user link) says:

it's called karma

Oh what irony. T-Mobile is suing Starbucks claiming violation of a contract for Wireless service. Those corporate snakes deserve each other.

Three years ago the pair of them screwed me out of $10 for a day pass that didn’t work because the router went down seconds after I paid. No refund. Not even a credit.

As a result, I’ve not spent another penny on either of them.

I estimate that the money I have have not spent at Starbucks is about $300. And, I’ve paid roughly $1,900 to another carrier for their wireless card service.

Bignumone (profile) says:

Starbucks seems to be trying

I think Starbucks is trying to become better. But I am not sure why they fought free (or even low cost) wifi for so long. And to become tied to one carrier seems really backward in today’s business environment.
It sounds to me like T-Mobile had it good for a very long time and is now bitter it is losing that position. And the idea that T-Mobile would not do the best they could for Starbucks sounds like bridge burning to me.
Finally, I heard that the AT&T “free” wifi is not that great of a deal either, just better than T-Mobile “pay as you play”.
Keep trying, Starbucks. You may get it right if you do.

Anonymous Coward says:

As a Starbucks employee I understand how badly we need free wifi and we have a contract with T-mobile and the company was waiting until the contract ran out but apparently that is not good enough for patrons or the provider. The situation will be solved so please rest assured that you will get something for free since that seems to be what you are most concerned about.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

yes, free is all I care about when it comes to paying 5.00 for a urine sample of coffee that generally comes out tasting burned and dealing with snobby coffee shop employees. Unless one of my clients absolutely requires we go to a Starschmucks I avoid it like the plague rat infested hole of snootishness it is.

Anon says:

If I provide free wifi for my neighbors and so many businesses do as well, is this helping or hurting starbucks?

All stores have a broadband data connection right?
Wireless AP’s are cheaper than dirt right?

SO… give the customer free service all the time as a value added bonus.. it costs you nothing and the customer appreciates it.
How much do you spend on ‘charging for wifi’? Are more and more or fewer and fewer customers willing to pay?
Is there more in pocket wifi out there than ever before?

Phil says:

It's all business and Starbucks is hurting!

Free WiFi is available at many places except for Starbucks. Paying for WiFi isn’t necessary anymore, period! I used to go to Starbucks as an office away from home but now Panera is my backup. The coffee is just as good plus the food is great.

Starbucks is making the change because they know they need to for the sake of competition. Starbucks isn’t that Holy and Green company it used to be. It’s just another fighter looking for the Holy Dollar. Anyone working for Starbucks who thinks they are working for some altruistic company needs to step out of their hemp underwear and start reading corporate reports.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It's all business and Starbucks is hurting!

Funny… i think the same thing every time I fly into Atlanta and try to use the wifi there and get a pay to play page. This thing about charging for wifi is retarded. I’m going to get for free, or I’m going to hack your router and make it free. It is either my way the easy way, or my way and I make you lose projected revenue. and If I’m gonna crack your router, I’m going to crack anything else I can get to because you are too dumb to get with the program.

BigDogRMF (profile) says:


When I stepped into a StarSchmucks a few years ago and saw that I had to pay for WiFi, it was the last straw. Mediocre, over-priced coffee served with a side order of holier-than-thou… I’ve never been back into one. Never.

Folks… wherever you get your coffee, please use local ‘Mom & Pop’ vendors… act (and keep your $$$’s) local. They’ll really appreciate it.

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