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Surf at Starbucks

Coffee chain offers wireless net access to City customers

Following the move to open up the radio spectrum in order to allow commercial operators to offer wireless LAN services coffee chain Starbucks has taken up the challenge, with a trial in two of its shops.

The outlets, which are both in the City of London — one in Broad Street and one in Fleet Street — will offer customers the chance to surf the net and check their emails via a wireless connection, as they sip on their lattes.

The pilot scheme, which is being run in association with T-Mobile, is called T-Mobile Hot Spot. It uses WiFi (802.11b) technology to provide customers with wireless equipped laptops and handhelds with high-speed access to the internet.

As this is just a trial the service is currently free but, if examples from the States are anything to go by, when pricing is set it could be pretty steep. To access Starbucks' service in the US you have to have a T-Mobile HotSpot account, and the cost varies across different plans — from as little as $2.55 (£1.66) for a pay-as-you-go service up to $49.99 (£32.65) for unlimited national use.

HP has also lent a hand with the Starbucks scheme, offering a free software tool that users can download to help configure their wireless devices to access the service. HP says it will be working with Starbucks to offer customers product-based promotions. But we're not too sure how that will work, as if you already have a wireless-enabled laptop or handheld, we don't see why you'd be interested in buying another one from HP.


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