Starbucks, T-Mobile launch Wi-Fi hotspots


T-Mobile has relaunched the network of hotspots it acquired from MobiStar in Starbucks coffee shops throughout the US, as well as London and Berlin.

Subscribers to the T-Mobile Hotspot network will be able to visit Starbucks’ outlets and access high speed internet services from an 802.11b-enabled notebook or PDA. T-Mobile is working with Hewlett Packard as the equipment partner, offering special pricing on a range of 802.11b modem cards and devices. Hotspots are available in 1200 locations throughout the US, with a further 800 planned by the end of the year. Pilot schemes in London and Berlin are being expanded throughout Europe. T-Mobile, which acquired the hotspot network through its purchase of operator VoiceStream Wireless, claims it is the largest 802.11b network owned by a telecommunications operator. Established telecom operators have been looking to offer 802.11b as a value-added service, with mobile operators examing ways in which to integrate the hotspots with wide area packet-data technologies such as GPRS.

“This service is a natural extension of the Starbucks coffeehouse experience, which has always been about making connections with the people and information that are important to us over a cup of coffee,” said Howard Schultz, Starbucks chairman and chief global strategist. “Mobile professionals across the globe have been waiting for just such an offering: high-speed wireless internet access in a familiar and widely available location that keeps them connected while on the road, or between the home and office. It’s the right service offered in the right environment.” John Stanton, Chairman, T-Mobile, U.S. Operations, added: “T-Mobile Hotspot service demonstrates how T-Mobile is using its leadership position in wireless data to deliver on its ‘Get More’ promise to customers, enabling them to use the most current innovations in wireless services to get more from life. Our relationship with Starbucks and HP demonstrates T-Mobile’s commitment to deliver on the promise of fast, reliable, and convenient wireless internet access.”

Insight

Starbucks has made a strong and early move to align its brand with the wireless hotspot concept, something which is sure to boost sales by attracting high spending executives to its shops. The old MobiStar network has found a good home with T-Mobile, which has the marketing power to promote the new high speed wireless services internationally.

It will also provide an interesting case study for the numerous mobile operators which are looking at 802.11b as a possible new revenue opportunity. As the first US operator to provide a wide area GPRS packet-data service and a network of WLAN hotspots, T-Mobile stands a good chance of stealing a march on competitors such as Nextel and Sprint PCS in attracting the small, but influential group of frequently travelling executives. Indeed, T-Mobile has done more in recent months than any other operator to position itself as a premium service provider, a far cry from the downmarket image suffered by its UK subsidary when it was known as the One2one. Is there a lesson here for O2, the former BT Cellnet?


Originally published by PMN Mobile Industry Intelligence, the subscription-based analysis and insight platform founded by Marek Pawlowski.
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