T-Mobile and Borders Bookmark 802.11 Access

Blazing a trail into the California wireless market, Bellevue, Wash.-based T-Mobile is picking up partnerships throughout the West Coast region as part of a target strategy for its newly vamped T-Mobile wireless service.

Formerly known as VoiceStream, T-Mobile is the mobile telecommunications subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom , which operates the third largest wireless network in the world.

After consolidating its brand name with Germany-based parent company T-Mobile in September 2001, T-Mobile USA launched wireless service in California and Nevada in July via its “Get More” campaign that aimed to penetrate the saturated cellular phone with the push that T-Mobile service provides cell phone users with more minutes, more features, and a T-Mobile HotSpot plan.

Prior to its July launch, T-Mobile was not accessible in California due to limited spectrum.

According to T-Mobile spokesperson Kim Thompson, through a network sharing deal with Cingular Wireless, T-Mobile was able to launch West Coast service more quickly than if they had built their own network infrastructure.

The T-Mobile HotSpot plan enables users with a wirelessly-enabled laptop or personal digital assistant and a HotSpot account to access high-speed Wi-Fi (802.11) access points in public places such as airports and airport clubs within the T-Mobile wireless local-area network (WLAN) network, which includes hundreds of nationwide hot spots.

The company expects to expand its Wi-Fi access locations into the thousands by the year’s end and is swiftly working to achieve that goal.

With the wireless Internet market not yet mainstream, T-Mobile is also providing HotSpot subscribers with a variety of service plans including “Pre-Pay,” and “Pay-as-you-go.”

In August, T-Mobile teamed with Hewlett Packard and Starbucks coffee houses in a nationwide campaign to put wireless access with T1 speeds in approximately 1,600 U.S. and European Starbucks stores.

As a result of the three-way deal, Starbucks became the largest Wi-Fi network supplier in the nation.

This week, T-Mobile amped-up its Wi-Fi strategy through a partnership with Borders Group, Inc. to launch high-speed wireless Internet access in dozens of Borders locations throughout California.

Borders in California is the first regional bookstore chain to offer Wi-Fi access.

In explaining T-Mobile’s interest in building relationships with Starbucks and now Borders, T-Mobile’s Kim Thompson explained that the company was going after strong brand recognition to promote its Wi-Fi access plan.

“We think partnering with big brand names that customers already frequent will make Wi-Fi even more convenient and easier to access,” said Thompson. “We will continue to look for these kinds of partnerships.”

T-Mobile’s HotSpot plan is expected to rollout in Borders’ California stores by the first quarter of 2003, followed by a nationwide rollout, said Thompson.

According to Paul Mozak, director of business development for Borders, each Borders will display a T-Mobile HotSpot symbol in its store windows.

Mozak also added that the company is working on in-cafe placement for T-Mobile’s service, and at some point in the coming months, Borders will launch an email campaign to its customer base advertising the new service.

“Since our stores are very diverse and some of our communities are high-end and other locations are more bedroom community areas, usage will vary demographically,” said Mozak. “Wi-Fi is still a very young industry, but our customers have asked for it.”

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