AT&T has announced that they will be taking control of Wi-Fi services and deployment at over 7,000 Starbucks retail stores in the United States. Also, AT&T will assume control of the existing Wi-Fi footprint, which will eventually cover all 100,000 Starbucks locations.
Previously, T-Mobile has been responsible for adding T-Mobile HotSpot Wi-Fi access to all Starbucks locations. It’s not clear if this was achieved via a takeover… AT&T does not mention T-Mobile in their press release, and media representatives for the company were not immediately available for comment.
It is possible, however, that Apple was involved in the takeover. Starbucks has committed to upgrading Wi-Fi services in all Starbucks locations nationwide to support Apple’s iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store (available on iPhone and iPod touch), enabling users to retrieve song info and purchase songs being played in the store. This requires an equipment upgrade in each location, and AT&T may have involved themselves in order to secure the hotspot locations, as well as transact the upgrade.
It is also not clear if T-Mobile customers will be able to continue using Starbucks hotspots, no roaming agreement was announced or dismissed.
AT&T did announce that Starbucks Card holders will receive two hours daily of free Wi-Fi access, an incentive for customers to pre-purchase Starbucks coffee on prepaid cards. Also, customers receiving free Wi-Fi service by being a qualified AT&T DSL customer will also receive free access at Starbucks locations. The implementation of this transition will begin this coming Spring, and be complete by the end of the year.