RealTime IT News

Starbucks Wi-Fi Gets Sweeter

In what wireless analysts describe as a savvy customer loyalty program, AT&T is tying its Wi-Fi services onto the Starbucks bandwagon, adding 7,000 'hotspots' to its current 17,000 in play. In return the coffee seller gets to tap 5 million of AT&T's remote access business customers, as well as 12 million broadband and Internet service users.

The business hookup could very well be a determining factor for enterprises choosing that next mobile services provider, say analysts, as a secure remote connection is exactly what every road warrior, and every IT leader, wants when it comes to mobile device use.

"It's quite possible that IT managers will view this as a good value-add in making AT&T their next device vendor," Carmi Levy, senior vice president of strategic consulting at AR Communications, told InternetNews.com.

Starbucks had partnered with T-Mobile for wireless services, and according to published reports the switch to AT&T was purely a business decision that had nothing to do with service quality levels or issues.

The new partnership brings a slew of connectivity options for AT&T customers. "Qualifying" AT&T broadband and U-verse Internet customers get unlimited Wi-Fi access. According to AT&T this includes subscribers to any of AT&T's broadband services with downstream speeds of more than 1.5 Mbps.

[cob:Related_Articles]Approximately 2 million of this 12 million customer base are from the small-and-medium business segment. AT&T's 5 million remote access services business customers will also get free access.

Non-AT&T subscribers who use Starbucks cards for purchases are provided two hours of free Wi-Fi daily, and those paying cash can purchase connectivity for $3.99 a session. A monthly subscription can be had for $20 and includes access to any of AT&T’s 70,000 hot spots in 89 countries.

AT&T clearly expects a business-side customer influx from the deal.

"The transition of mobile users from legacy dialup to wireless broadband connection (Wi-Fi and cellular) continues to grow significantly. The users are sales, technical support, and executives who require seamless connections from any place at any time," Jenny Parker, an AT&T spokesperson, told InternetNews.com via email.

Users of AT&T's Business Internet Services, VPN Tunneling Service, and the vendor's Network-based IP VPN Remote Access who are authorized for Wi-Fi use, will have access to any Starbucks Wi-Fi spots at no additional charge.

Companies not currently authorized for use can contact AT&T to have that service added to their service contract. Business Remote Access customers will have the option of usage billing for the infrequent user or including AT&T Wi-Fi into their fixed rate plans.

"We certainly expect that, by partnering with a popular and well-known brand such as Starbucks, the profile of our Wi-Fi footprint will be raised and more customers will have convenient, everyday access to hotspots," Parker stated.