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4/16/2008
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AT&T Launches Starbucks Wi-Fi Service In San Antonio

Blogger Alan Weinkrantz, the first to use the service, reported that it worked perfectly.

AT&T has launched its new Wi-Fi Starbucks service at a coffee shop near the AT&T headquarters in San Antonio.

Blogger Alan Weinkrantz saw the AT&T trucks at the Starbucks on Tuesday, rushed to his office to pick up his laptop, and successfully logged on, becoming the first customer for the Wi-Fi service, which is planned to be offered in 7,000 Starbucks locations before the end of the year.

"I was told I was the first [Starbucks customer] to get the service in the U.S.," Weinkrantz said in an interview. "In the past I paid for it as a T-Mobile customer." Weinkrantz said the service worked perfectly. Later, he used his iPhone at the San Antonio store and, once again, the iPhone's Wi-Fi operated without a hitch. AT&T is the exclusive provider of Apple iPhones in the United States.

The San Antonio location is the first deployment of the eagerly anticipated AT&T Wi-Fi service, an AT&T spokeswoman said. She noted that the service is free to qualifying customers of AT&T's U-verse and broadband services in the company's 22-state operating region. Some additional AT&T customers, as well as holders of Starbucks Cards, will qualify for the service, too. Tiered service starting at $3.99 per session also will be offered at Starbucks locations.

What about T-Mobile customers who have been using Wi-Fi at Starbucks locations for years?

T-Mobile has said its paid service will continue to be offered at Starbucks locations for at least five more years under a roaming agreement with AT&T. Previously, AT&T had supplied back-office systems for Starbucks' restaurants, so the move to accommodate both companies was relatively easy.

In a statement, Joe Sims, T-Mobile's VP and general manager of broadband products and services, said, "We are still the only national wireless carrier that is actively expanding the use of Wi-Fi in and outside of customers' homes through our ... T-Mobile Hotspot @Home service, which allows users to make and receive phone calls using Wi-Fi and Hotspot @Home-enabled mobile devices."

T-Mobile offers for $19.99 a month a Wi-Fi service that can be used in Starbucks locations.

Another service offered by Spanish company FON also provides a way to connect to Starbucks' Wi-Fi services. FON has been signing up Wi-Fi users, who then offer to share their Wi-Fi access points with other FON users.

Another player in Starbucks' Wi-Fi offering is Apple, which offers its iTunes music purchasing service at Starbucks locations. AT&T and T-Mobile are also bonded through the iPhone: AT&T has exclusive rights to market the phone in the United States, and T-Mobile has exclusive rights in Germany.

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