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Starbucks wins T-Mobile USA for AT&T Wi-Fi

August 18, 2009

Starbucks Corp. will use the AT&T Wi-Fi service at more than 7,000 company-operated coffee shops nationwide, ditching longtime partner T-Mobile USA.

The Seattle retailer, which has suffered slower growth in recent months, will also boost customer loyalty by offering two hours of free Wi-Fi service per day for Starbucks cardholders starting this spring.

“People want to stay connected to their world 24/7, and Wi-Fi hot spots, broadband and wireless make that mobility possible,” said Rick Welday, chief marketing officer-consumer at AT&T Inc., New York, in a statement.

The 100,000-plus U.S.-based Starbucks staff nationwide will also receive free AT&T Wi-Fi accounts.

As part of the deal, more than 12 million qualifying AT&T broadband and AT&T U-verse Internet customers will have unlimited free access to the Wi-Fi service at Starbucks.

Also, more than 5 million AT&T remote access services business customers will have access to the Wi-Fi service at Starbucks. AT&T wireless customers will soon have the same benefits too, the company said.

All told, the AT&T Wi-Fi network will include more than 17,000 hot spots nationwide and 70,000-plus overseas.

AT&T had the largest Wi-Fi network nationwide, even prior to the Starbucks deal.

Meanwhile, walk-in customers who don’t use AT&T or don’t have a Starbucks card will pay $3.99 for a two-hour session — a tactic that pits Starbucks directly against another Internet access provider, FedEx Kinko’s. Monthly membership will be open for $19.99 with access to all 70,000 AT&T hot spots in 89 countries.

“Our new relationship with AT&T gives us the opportunity to expand and enhance the range of digital entertainment experiences for our customers as well as our partners, including the continued rollout of the iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store at Starbucks,” said Ken Lombard, president of Starbucks Entertainment, in a statement.

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Mickey Alam Khan is editor in chief of Mobile Commerce Daily, Mobile Marketer and Luxury Daily. Reach him at

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