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Monday, February 11, 2008, 05:00 am PT (08:00 am ET)

AT&T to roll out Wi-Fi access to over 7,000 Starbucks locations

AT&T said Monday it will soon deliver Wi-Fi service to more than 7,000 company-operated Starbucks coffeehouse locations across the United States, offering a mix of free and paid internet access designed to meet the needs of both frequent and occasional customers.

The partnership aims to expand and enhance the digital entertainment experience for Starbucks customers, building on the coffee retailer's ongoing rollout of free iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store access for users of Apple's iPod touch, iPhone and other portables running iTunes.

The initiative will see AT&T's Wi-Fi network, already the largest in the United States, expanded to more than 17,000 U.S. hot spots and more than 70,000 globally.

Beginning this spring, it will offer Starbucks Card holders up to two hours of free Wi-Fi service per day at Starbucks locations offering Wi-Fi access, while more than 12 million qualifying AT&T broadband and AT&T U-verse Internet customers will have unlimited free access to the Wi-Fi service.

In addition, AT&T said that more than 5 million of its remote access services business customers will be able to access the Wi-Fi service at Starbucks locations, and that it plans to extend the benefits to all of its mobile wireless customers sometime in the future.

"People want to stay connected to their world 24/7, and Wi-Fi hot spots, broadband and wireless make that mobility possible," said AT&T consumer marketing chief Rick Welday. "Laptops and smartphones give us the online mobility we crave, and now millions of AT&T and Starbucks customers will get Internet access free from the comfort of their neighborhood Starbucks."

In addition to the free Wi-Fi access for qualifying AT&T customers and any Starbucks Card holder, customers will be able to purchase tiered access to the AT&T Wi-Fi network at Starbucks. A two-hour session will fetch $3.99, while a monthly membership will also be available for $19.99 per month, and will include access to any of AT&T's 70,000 hot spots in 89 countries around the world.

AT&T business customers who subscribe to remote access services can also enjoy unlimited, flat-rate access plans at any Starbucks location offering Wi-Fi service or at other AT&T Wi-Fi hot spots, the two firms said.

Additionally, AT&T said it is providing Starbucks an enterprise-class network with increased bandwidth and redundancy.

"Delivering networking capabilities to help a world-class company such as Starbucks achieve greater business velocity is what we do," said Welday.

The availability of AT&T Wi-Fi service at Starbucks will take place on a market-by-market basis with store implementation beginning this spring and completed by the end of the year.