Coffee shop giant Starbucks plans to offer its customers wireless internet access, allowing them to use their own wireless-enabled laptops, smart phones and Pocket PCs while they sip their cappuccino.
The company will initially launch its largest wireless network in 4000 US shops, but intends to take the venture global as soon as possible.
Internet access will be made available over MobileStar Network's wireless broadband network using Microsoft software and its MSN Portal website and service. Compaq will provide wireless local area network (Lan) cards and iPaq Pocket PCs for loan or purchase at the shops.
Each Starbucks will have an 802.11b wireless Lan connected to a T-1 line out to MobileStar's backbone. MobileStar is also installing wireless transceivers that can transmit and receive messages, as well as premises routers and mini switches that hook into a dedicated T-1.
"This is one of the largest wireless networks that is going to be deployed globally," said Ali Tabassi, chief technology and development officer at MobileStar.
Starbucks chief executive Orin Smith said the company expects to have at least 650 stores in Europe and 800 stores in the Pacific Rim by 2003. The coffee chain currently operates around 200 outlets in the UK and 500 in the Pacific Rim, and plans to enter five new European markets by the end of the year.
Plans are also afoot for a Starbucks customer card which is intended to speed up orders and eventually provide the ability to pre-order drinks over a mobile phone.
Cheri Libby, a spokeswoman for Starbucks, said the company selected MobileStar because of their track record. "Its deployment capabilities and back-office operations are second to none," she said.
Before the end of the year, customers will be able to download the latest information, check their email and access corporate intranets.
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