AT&T’s free WiFi at Starbucks; why not totally free for everyone?

Do you remember back in October last year, Starbucks tested free WiFi in 1,000 Starbucks across California? (Here’s our coverage of that)

Well, I was gratified to read that AT&T customers are to get free WiFI at Starbucks across America later this year. I suspected that this will be a crowd-pleaser for Apple iPhone users (in particular) — similar to the WiFi roaming arrangement that o2 UK has in place with UK hotspot provider, The Cloud. Wherever you go with The Cloud signal, your iPhone automatically roams.

I’ve always thought that charging for WiFi totally sucks in any restaurant or coffee shop. I understand there’s commercial realities at play, however I view WiFi as a necessary utility, much like I view working chairs and products made with clean water, at any coffee shop. Starbucks inability or unwillingness to sort out free WiFi has always niggled me. They’ve had free WiFi in Egyptian Starbucks for ages (so reports reader, Steve – see comments). I wonder why they’ve not implemented similar in what I imagine is their biggest market?

Perhaps the chairs in Starbucks are at a premium anyway? Perhaps their trials indicate that folk hang around too long, crowding the (sometimes tiny) shop floor space? I’d be mildly interested to get a look at the terms of the agreement between AT&T and Starbucks. I wonder who’s paying who.

As for the T-Mobile customers left out in the cold? Fear not. Engadget reports that T-Mobile has struck a five year roaming agreement with AT&T so it’s customers can continue to use the Starbucks wireless. So if you’re currently paying almost $30 a month to roam on all T-Mobile’s wireless hotspots, you’ll still be able to use the service for years to come.

And, in five years time, (2013) I hope we’ll all be walking about with $7/month unlimited 100meg/sec data connections with 100% coverage, so this kind of service will be irrelevant. Who knows… it could happen!

If you’re in the UK, sit down, shut up and keep paying for your Starbucks WiFi like the willing customer that you are.

  • http://www.wirelesstechnologyforum.org MSquared

    It has been free since AT&T took over for T-mobile. Either as a AT&T DSL customer, iPhone subscriber, or through a Starbucks pre-paid card. All one has to do is obtain a Starbucks pre-paid card and keep a minmum amount on it and teh Wi-Fi is free…

  • http://www.wirelesstechnologyforum.org MSquared

    It has been free since AT&T took over for T-mobile. Either as a AT&T DSL customer, iPhone subscriber, or through a Starbucks pre-paid card. All one has to do is obtain a Starbucks pre-paid card and keep a minmum amount on it and teh Wi-Fi is free…

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