by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
coffee, wifi

at&t, starbucks, t-mobile

Starbucks Adds AT&T WiFi; Now You've Got A Choice

from the would-you-like-the-tall-or-the-vente-wifi? dept

For many years, Starbucks has provided a huge footprint for fee-based WiFi from T-Mobile (originally Mobilestar). While many, many others had determined that it made more sense to offer free WiFi in coffee shops and other places to attract users, Starbucks stuck by the relatively expensive T-Mobile WiFi offering. The deal was apparently somewhat (though not fantastically) profitable for both companies, which is why they never seemed to budge from it, even as the idea of fee-based WiFi lost a lot of its luster. However, it looks like things are finally shaking up a bit. Starbucks has now announced that it's also adding AT&T's hotspot offering to its stores, which is a pretty big deal, since AT&T offers access to its WiFi hotspots for free to most DSL customers. Prior to this, most of AT&T's hotspots were found in McDonalds -- so adding Starbucks is a big win.

It's interesting to note, however, that Starbucks hasn't dumped T-Mobile, it's just added AT&T. It's not clear if this means that Starbucks will be installing separate WiFi equipment for both services, but given the recent deal between Apple and Starbucks to let iPhone users access iTunes via WiFi for free, you had to figure that the company was going to be changing some of its WiFi backend equipment. Also given AT&T's iPhone connection, it shouldn't be a huge surprise that AT&T was a part of the new Starbucks offering. The other interesting bit is that for non-subscribers, the AT&T WiFi will be noticeably cheaper in one-off use than T-Mobile's -- meaning even if T-Mobile hasn't been "dumped" it may have just lost many one-time users. If anything, this may continue to push Starbucks to move closer and closer to finally giving up the paid solution and offering WiFi for free -- just as many Starbucks managers have been begging the company to do for years.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Secret33.com, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 12:25pm

    Starbucks Adds AT&T WiFi;

    If T-Mobile WIFI is working well, why did they bring in that nasty company, AT+T? I will visit Starbucks soon to check this out and chat with them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    MATT, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 12:40pm

    wireless central

    thankfully, people offer wifi near a starbucks instead so that you can let starbucks still enjoy your business on the coffee side. The pricings of these T-Mobile/etc deals are an absolute scam. Somewheres in the range of 10$ a day. I imagine the AT&T deal is around the same scam. If they settled on 3$ or something it wouldn't be so prohibitive.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    tony, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 12:41pm

    Re: Starbucks Adds AT&T WiFi;

    it could be that t-mobile wasn't working well and that at&t offered more money from profit sharing than t-mobile was allowing for starbucks. pure speculation of course, but at least it's logical.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Brian, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 12:54pm

    Heh. A buddy of mine lives in an apartment complex just next to my local Starbucks and I steal his WiFi.

    It is nice to see that Starbucks is starting to explore some new (for them, anyway) avenues regarding access. Ideally, it would be free, but this is a start.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Greyson, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 12:54pm

    what a rip-off

    Thankfully there is a Panerra Bread right down the street that has just as good coffee, a better selection of eats, and FREE WI-FI. Why on earth would I go to Starbucks and not only overpay for coffee, but pay for wi-fi.

    What a racket. There are plenty of free wi-fi's out there. Thanks Starbucks for allowing us to pay for the priviledge of accessing your internet while overpaying for coffee. Brilliant!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Brad, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 12:58pm

    From what I understand, the pairing with AT&T ties in with the iPhone and iPod Touch devices. Normally when accessing the iTunes store, you have to have a login and must pay to access various types of content. When your iPhone or iPod detects the Starbucks wi-fi hotspot, it will automatically give you a certain level of free access to iTunes content without needing to login or anything. And of course the free wi-fi access is nice too.

    I think it's actually more of a deal between Apple and Starbucks than it is between AT&T and Starbucks. If Apple's wireless carrier for the iPhone was, say, Verizon, then it would be Verizon going into Starbucks, not AT&T. Because Apple chose one of the worst wireless carriers out there (at least speed-wise), everybody else is forced to play along with it if they want to get along with Apple.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Matt, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 1:00pm

    Re: what a rip-off

    in a funny coincidence the starbucks I mentioned above happens to be covered by the wireless from a Panera nearby which clearly isn't stupid (starbucks is on default channel 6, Panera is on 11 broadcasting B/G mix and N on another, etc).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Todd, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 1:18pm

    They have got to have the biggest balls in the wor

    I'm glad I don't go to Starbucks. I never knew they would have the balls to charge to use their WiFi & then make you pay $5-6 for instant espresso or $3 dollars for a shitty cup of burned coffee. It makes sense though the two shittiest places on earth CHARGE to use their WiFi.

    I'll just stick to the local coffee shops around & get a REAL cup of espresso & free WiFi.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Bob, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 2:17pm

    Wait a minute. People still go to Starbucks? Why?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Andrew, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 2:19pm

    It makes sense, really

    It appears that Starbucks has assumed that if you'll pay too much for coffee then you're likely to be willing to overpay for other products. If you're an Apple customer, then you've already proven their point.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Jordan, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 2:37pm

    Old news

    Apple has said on their site since the Touch came out that they would be rolling out wifi hotspots at Starbucks. It should have been obvious that the carrier they chose was ATT as it is also the proprietary carrier for the iphone.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Tom, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 2:50pm

    Starbucks charges for internet?

    I didn't even know Starbucks charged for internet access. About two months ago I needed to test a VPN connection for one of my network users. I went to a Starbucks just down the street, found an empty table, fired up her laptop, and VPN'ed right into our network. Worked like a charm, and we didn't have to pay anybody for anything (didn't even order a coffee, although I guess I should have).

    That's the first and only time I've ever been to a Starbucks, so maybe this is a relatively recent phenomenon. Or maybe the network was unintentionally open...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    matt, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 3:39pm

    Re: Starbucks charges for internet? yep

    That T-Mobile service isn't free. If starbucks choose to offer separate may be the case. Or did you not actually take a look at the ID of the router?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Shun, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 4:06pm

    Story's gotten around

    First, let me preface this by saying that I am not a fan of Starbucks, T-Mobile, AT&T, or Apple. Still, there are some synergies here.

    T-Mobile was charging too much for hotspot access. The deal was about this, but also, crucially, about iTunes and the iPhone, which a previous poster pointed out. Also, stories have been making their way around:

    Anyone with a Starbucks gift card gets 2 free hours per day of access (I'm assuming you have to actually buy something at Starbucks to get access. There will probably be an access code printed on the receipt).

    Anyone with AT&T DSL can access Starbucks hotspots with their at&t id and password (yeah, I want to send that over the air and compromise my home network, as well).

    T-Mobile users will be "grandfathered" in, either at the old price or for free.

    AFAIK, all of these hotspot vendors have an initial splash screen where you are forced to provide authentication in order to jump on their network. If you didn't get that, then you probably hopped onto someone else's network. You just happened to be sitting in Starbucks at the time.

    I don't know what the pricing model for this will be. It seems like a no-brainer to lower the price and get more people in the door, but maybe Starbucks isn't hurting for foot traffic. The Apple angle makes more sense.

    Paying for Wifi always seemed like a sucker's game to me. If anyone can set up a HotSpot, it would only be a matter of time before someone offered free WiFi in range of your paying customers. Thus Panera vs. Starbucks.

    What per hour or per day connectivity prices do is drive higher-end customers toward data usage on their mobiles. Therefore AT&T and Verizon can charge more to people using their HSDPA or EDGE networks.

    Maybe the real solution is to prevent telecoms companies (who have access to licensed spectrum) from owning or operating Wifi nodes (unlicensed spectrum). The simplest solution would be to just stay away from Starbucks.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    margo, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 9:06pm

    why would they put 2 companys together thats just gona give more problems

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Rose, Feb 12th, 2008 @ 10:58am


    It's pure frustration to try and find a wifi connection when you are on the road. I often wished companies would have a "Free WiFi Here" sign in thier window, then I'd bop in ad hoc!

    I never realized that McDonalds has AT&T WiFi or I would have dropped in. But Starbucks is my first choice, since they are so ubiquitous .... I can get both fixes filled at the same time.

    Smart decision Starbucks!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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