T-Mobile is suing Starbucks for allowing AT&T to supply in-store customers with free wireless Internet access using T-Mobile’s lines and equipment. [NYT via Racked]


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  1. snoop-blog says:

    Well your $5 coffee will soon be $6 coffee, but will you care? Not when you use hundred dollar bills to wipe your ass…

  2. dohtem says:

    @snoop-blog: Maybe it’s just me but I fail to see your point.

  3. bohemian says:

    I really don’t care as long as I can finally get free wifi at a Starbucks. It really stinks to be on the road and not be able to find coffee and wifi. All of the Starbucks around here require you to buy $20 worth of credits from Tmobile.

  4. magic8ball says:

    Maybe I’m really dense, but from the linked articles, I can’t tell exactly what the problem is. T-mobile is complaining about … something … related to providing equipment to Starbucks? I would think they would have had some sort of contract with Starbucks, that would have outlined exactly what they were giving, what they were getting, and what Starbucks could do with the equipment.

  5. dohtem says:

    @magic8ball: Try this:
    T-Mobile buys equipment.
    T-Mobile installs eqiupment, at own cost, in Starbucks.
    Starbucks cancels contract with T-Mobile.
    Starbuck offers service from AT&T using T-Mobile’s Equipment.

  6. chiieddy says:

    @dohtem: Actually, Starbucks waited until the contract with T-mobile ran out and did not renew with T-mobile.

  7. dweebster says:

    @chiieddy: …but what did the contract say? If Tmobile owns the hardware, then there seems to be an issue. If the hardware becomes property of Starbux then tough titties.

  8. bubbledumpster says:


  9. coren says:

    If I get a “free” phone for signing a 2 year contract with TMobile, when that contract runs out, I’m free to go with ATT – is that what happened here? Should I worry that Tmobile is gonna sue me?

  10. Jetgirly says:

    Internet is free at Starbucks in Mexico. But I get sick every time I have a soy latte. Every. Single. Time.

  11. krom says:

    @magic8ball: Not just equipment, but telephone lines, over which this free (unlimited) ATT traffic will run. Probably T-Mobile is worried they will end up handling this traffic and maintaining these lines while not getting paid for the increase in usage of their infrastructure. Sure, the routers are probably SBUX’s now, but not the telephone lines and presumably not the far-end (the other end of the phone line ) equipment.

    TMO gets to set the price by which its own customers can have unlimited use of TMO’s telephone lines and far-end equipment. But it doesn’t get to set ATT’s price for the same service to ATT customers — over TMO’s lines — nor presumably is ATT or SBUX planning to pay TMO extra for the additional load.

    From TFA: T-Mobile said it is bearing the cost and burden of the free Wi-Fi service offer because it provided equipment and technology at thousands of Starbucks stores.

  12. strathmeyer says:

    @Jetgirly: So stop drinking them! Sheesh…

  13. magic8ball says:

    Sort of starting to make sense now … I did RTFAs, but they both said exactly the same thing. I guess I’m still unclear as to whether T-Mobile is accusing Starbucks of breach of contract, or something else.

  14. Hawk07 says:


    Odds are the contract you signed for T-Mobile service and the contract between T-Mobile and Starbucks are vastly different.

  15. SmaShT says:

    It’s not free, you need to have a Prodigy Infinitum account. And I’ve found that the menu is more varied and overall better in Starbucks Mexico than in the USA.

  16. jpx72x says:

    @snoop-blog: @dohtem: The point he’s trying to make is “Look at me, I drink coffee-flavored Foldgers for 10 cents a cup and rip off Dennis Leary rants. I’m macho.” I think that was the point.

  17. humphrmi says:

    I have not read one word of the contract between Starbucks and T-Mobile, however I have read the contract I signed with the guy that mows my lawn every week, and based on my interpretation of that contract I’m siding with T-Mobile on this one.

    Mainly because I like T-Mobile and hate Starbucks. But I’m sure my lawn maintenance contract is somehow applicable here. I’m waiting for the attorneys for boths sides to call me up.

  18. donkeyjote says:

    @jpx72x: Well, umm, your an asshole. That’s my point…

  19. u1itn0w2day says:

    Saw an article from Reuters from Starbucks stock news;symbol SBUX.More or less the samething-violated transition agreement and considerable cost to T-Mobile.

    Wonder if part of that expense includes stationing & building extra towers/transmitters in the neighborhood and not just routers in the stores.Might even have had to pay for landlines for gaps in network.

    Wonder if it’s just user revenue or ad revenue as well?

  20. gaberussell says:

    I used the free AT&T WiFi at Starbucks for the first time today and I was wondering about this.

    The landing page is Starbucks-branded. There’s a T-Mobile banner at the top reading “Click Here to Connect” and a box on the right end of the banner reading “AT&T Mobile customers click here.” You’re able to sign in via either your T-Mobile account or an AT&T account depending on which link you click. There’s a section on the T-Mobile page explaining that T-Mobile customers would still be able to use their accounts at Starbucks despite the AT&T deal.

    This all led me to believe that Starbucks has control over the IT infrastructure and leased it out to T-Mobile, and is now leasing it to AT&T at the same time.

    And for those of you trying to figure out how to get the free WiFi in the store: whether you have a starbucks.com account or not, you have to go to the Starbucks web site (which you can access from the in-store landing page without having signed into T-Mobile or AT&T), click on “Starbucks Card,” and click on “Join Rewards.” This will create an AT&T account with the same user/pass as your starbucks.com account (and will also create a starbucks.com account if you don’t already have one). None of this information is clear from the in-store landing page.

  21. kitkatsplash says:

    But you can only get the free wifi if you are position of both an At&T account (meaning at&T cell service) AND a prepaid starbucks card. Otherwise, t-mobile charges $10 for a day pass. Cross the street to Caribou, if you’ve only got chains in your area, and get the wifi for free.

  22. morganlh85 says:

    They should have just had FREE internet from the beginning (like EVERY OTHER CAFE in the COUNTRY) and they never would have had this problem.

  23. gaberussell says:

    @kitkatsplash: You don’t need AT&T cell service to sign up. In the process of registering the card, you create a starbucks.com account and an AT&T WiFi account. All you need is a Starbucks card that’s been used within the past 30 days.

  24. krom says:

    @u1itn0w2day: I’m pretty sure that T-Mobile Hotspots are not fed by cell towers. Cellular data speeds aren’t nearly fast enough (well, in most places, and esp. not on TMO’s network for some time) for the broadband speeds to be expected from a hotspot. On the other hand, I wasn’t aware TMO was in the landline market, either; so these are probably RBOC lines that TMO is leasing. Wonder how much a hassle it would be for TMO to say “hey, ATT, you want to sell flat rate unlimited usage? Then take over our leases”. But then they would presumably lose the leverage they have to keep TMO Hotspot customers able to the SBUX hotspots if they sold the leases. (If that’s even possible.) And, uh, as a TMO Hotspot monthly subscriber, I’d be less than thrilled about that personally.

    I expect the goal here by TMO is not so much to bar ATT giving away flat-rate unlimited usage (which would probably be an acceptable Pyrrhic victory) but to get ATT/SBUX to compensate TMO adequately for it.

  25. chiieddy says:

    Okay, I found a couple more articles. It looks like T-mobile contends they had exclusive rights to WiFi at Starbucks through January 2009 and that Starbucks jumped the gun with their AT&T partnership.

  26. Norcross says:

    well, I already have a T-Mobile data plan, so it was already free for me. That being said, I hope T-Mobile goes in and takes out the equiptment they put there, or just stops supporting it. It’s AT&T’s problem now.

  27. TheNerd says:

    Maybe this will lead consumers to support local coffee houses. I’ve never set foot into a Starbucks, and I hope I’ll never have to. My community is small-business friendly, and that’s an attitude I want to see spreading across America.

  28. chiieddy says:

    @TheNerd: Local coffee houses are wonderful things and add great value to the community but the vast majority of them also don’t offer their workers health insurance. It’s a trade-off.

  29. Jetgirly says:

    @SmaShT: Is the Prodigy Infinitum account thing new? We definitely didn’t need an account in February and March. After Semana Santa I stopped going, and I just asked my roommate who goes there every single day to use the internet, and she said that she actually logs on to the free internet from the bar beside Starbucks. However, she said that the employees are always coming over and fiddling with her computer and trying to get a connection, and nobody has mentioned Prodigy Infinitum. Could the staff really be that clueless?

  30. Wet_Baloney says:


    then why do you keep going back for more? Have stock in a toilet paper company or something?