Starbucks has inked a deal that replaces T-Mobile with AT&T for their company store Wi-Fi hotspot service. T-mobile customers will still be able to access the network through a roaming agreement with AT&T. AT&T’s broadband and U-verse customers will have access to the Starbuck’s Wi-Fi networks free of charge. This latest move expands upon AT&T’s growing use of Wi-Fi as a competitive tool. They recently opened up their nationwide Wi-Fi network free of charge to existing broadband customers.
AT&T is leveraging Wi-Fi for several reasons. Giving it away to broadband customers creates additional value for an AT&T subscription. AT&T also has millions of newly minted iPhone subscribers, who are hungry for broadband access to utilize their smart phone’s full potential. Additionally, AT&T may be making some pre-emptive moves against Sprint. It’s widely known that Sprint is attempting to launch a nationwide WiMAX network. Assuming that get’s done (which might be a big assumption), Sprint conceivably will be in a position to provide a better broadband wireless experience than their competitors. With widescale access to Wi-Fi, AT&T customers may feel like they have enough and not be tempted to try Sprint’s new Xohm network.