updated 11:30 am EDT, Mon June 2, 2008
Starbucks Cardholder Wi-Fi
Starbucks will launch some of its first universal free Wi-Fi starting from tomorrow, according to a conversation held by former Sling Media official Dave Zatz as well as a company page. Stores from June 3rd onward will give two hours of free Wi-Fi access per day to any Starbucks Card owner who uses the card for other store purchases at least once a month. Unlike efforts that limit access to PC data cards or Apple's iTunes-only usage, the free link will be available to any 802.11 device, the coffee merchant says.
The initiative is being driven by AT&T and is rumored to come alongside or shortly before an iPhone-specific plan that would give virtually unlimited access to Starbucks hotspots by identifying oneself as an AT&T iPhone customer. AT&T ultimately hopes to expand its access to all subscribers with Wi-Fi cellphones.
AT&T and Starbucks are said to have mutual interests in driving customers to use the Wi-Fi points. While primarily there to drive customers to Starbucks stores, the access also helps offload demand for data through AT&T's own cellular network, a demand likely to increase with the introduction of a 3G-capable iPhone, the BlackBerry Bold, and other faster devices.