A popular Canadian coffee shop is offering free Wi-Fi to lure customers as competition with Starbucks heats up.

Tim Hortons, a doughnut chain named after a famous National Hockey League player, said Thursday that Bell Canada's mobile division has been chosen to install Wi-Fi systems in 2,000 of its outlets across the country.

Bell is also the wireless provider for several hundred Starbucks outlets in Canada.

Nauby Jacob, Bell Mobility's vice-president of services, products and content, said many technicians will be contracted to do the installations, which have already started.

"We'll be helping a lot of employment in the country," he said.

Bell was chosen recently to be the wireless contractor after a six-month test of providers.

A spokesman for the chain couldn't be reached for comment, but Jacobs said Bell was chosen for its ability to do the work fast -- Tim Hortons wants 90 per cent of the outlets to be ready by September -- and its ability to be flexible on equipment.

Jacob said that for similar deployments it has used access points from Aruba Networks, but the telco will use the best access points suited for each Tim Horton's location.

Wi-Fi is important part of the overall telecommunications strategy of Bell, the country's biggest phone company and second biggest cellular carrier, he said. Bell wants the maximum number of Canadians to have access to its broadband networks, with Wi-Fi as a gateway, he said.

So it looks for partners who have "intimate" connections with customers who come back to the same locations.

Bell is providing more than installing hardware, he added. The solution for Tim Horton's also has to deal picking equipment to deal with possible interference from nearby Wi-Fi transmitters and the chain's Internet log-in requirements."It's all about convenience and making life easier for our guests," Roland Walton, the coffee shop's chief operations officer said in the statement. "Free wireless Internet at Tim Hortons will help people stay connected on the road in more locations than anyone in Canada and is yet another great reason to visit one of our restaurants to enjoy a fresh cup of coffee."

An increasing number of Canadian retailers and restaurants are offering Wi-Fi as a service to lure customers, although it isn't as common here as it is in the U.S. Wireless carriers see it as a possible profitable business, and also as a way to take traffic off their cellular networks and ease congestion. Many cellular devices also have Wi-Fi connectivity and can be set up to switch to Wi-Fi if available.