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Starbucks Deepens Commitment to Wi-Fi

Starbucks announced this week that it is upgrading its enterprise networking capabilities and will pass on some of the benefit to customers in the form of free Wi-Fi.

Beginning this spring, Starbucks will offer two free hours of Wi-Fi access per day to customers at all 7,000 of its American stores. The catch is, you have to be a Starbucks Card holder or an AT&T customer.

The Wi-Fi will be delivered via AT&T’s Wi-Fi service. Some AT&T broadband and AT&T U-verse Internet customers will also have unlimited free access to the Wi-Fi service at Starbucks.

Paid Wi-Fi will be an option, as well: $3.99 for two hours; or unlimited access for $19.99 per month, which will include access to any of AT&T's other hotspots, domestic or international.

T-Mobile HotSpot customers will still be able to access Wi-Fi services at Starbucks at no additional cost. Starbucks will also continue its relationship with Apple and the iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store.

The AT&T Wi-Fi network, which claims to be the largest in the United States, operates more than 17,000 U.S.-based hotspots and another 70,000 worldwide.

AT&T has provided Starbucks with network connectivity for point of sale and other store operating systems for more than a decade. The in-store, enterprise-grade Wi-Fi networks will be utilized for a full range of business applications.

Starbucks intends to do more than simply entice customers with free Wi-Fi, however. It plans to continue to build its brand by creating what it calls, “the Starbucks experience,” which includes digital media and entertainment along with your venti mocha latte.

“As we continue to build upon our digital entertainment platform, our expanded partnership with AT&T will permit us to deliver a compelling in-store entertainment experience for Starbucks customers as well as AT&T’s customers,” said Ken Lombard, president, Starbucks Entertainment in a press release Monday.

The Wi-Fi service at Starbucks will be rolled out on a market-by-market basis, and should be completed by the end of the year.

Naomi Graychase is Managing Editor at Wi-FiPlanet.