AT&T upgrades 3G network and takes over Starbucks Wi-Fi

AT&T reported last week that it will be upgrading its wireless network to "3G services" to an additional 80 US cities for a total of 350 by the end of 2008. The upgrade process will encompass more than 1,500 new sites, and cover the "top 100 US cities".

In that announcement, AT&T stated "Other plans for the new year include completion of the nation's first High Speed Uplink Packet Access (HSUPA)-enabled network by the middle of the year." AT&T's wording is odd; perhaps intentionally vague. But parsing the announcements a bit, it sounds to me like the announcement breaks down into three announcements:

1. AT&T is deploying "3G" wireless HSxPA (it's variously stated as High Speed Packet Access, HS Downlink PA, HS Uplink PA) to an additional 80 cities, bringing their total "3G" deployment to 350 cities, including all of the "top" 100 US cities, by the end of 2008.

2. These new deployments will be the latest generation of HSxPA.

3. Coinciding with the timetable of the additional deployments, AT&T will complete the upgrades of all of its "3G" systems (350 total, including the "top" 100 US cities) by the end of 2008.

So, summarizing, by EOY 2008, AT&T will have HSxPA capability in 350 US cities, including the "top" 100 US cities.

In a kind-of-related announcement, AT&T announced that it is the new Wi-Fi service provider for Starbucks at their 7,000 company-owned stores, taking over from T-Mobile. There were a number of "sweeteners" to this deal, resulting in easier and cheaper Wi-Fi Internet Access for many. Those who use Starbucks "stored value" cards will be able to get two hours of Wi-Fi Internet Access free. Starbucks "partners" (employees) will be able to use Starbucks / AT&T Wi-Fi service for free. AT&T customers of fixed-line services will be able to use Starbucks Wi-Fi for free.

For corporate / enterprise users, "AT&T’s remote access services business customers will be able to access Wi-Fi service at Starbucks locations". Also, T-Mobile customers and those who have existing T-Mobile Wi-Fi HotSpot accounts will be able to continue to use Starbucks "... at no additional cost". Glenn Fleishman of Wi-Fi Networking News reports that Wayport also has a hand in the Starbucks / AT&T Wi-Fi deal - I'll leave it to Glenn to explain the particulars.

The deal with AT&T will consolidate the two distinct data communications deals that every company-owned Starbucks store currently has- corporate Intranet via AT&T, and public Internet access via Wi-Fi from T-Mobile; now AT&T will do both.

And, as a final nod to the inanity of AT&T wireless customers not being able to (without paying a usage fee) use their iPhones, in Wi-Fi mode, at AT&T Wi-Fi HotSpots, comes this terse teaser: "AT&T will soon extend the benefits of Wi-Fi at Starbucks to its wireless customers."

If this plays out the least bit logically, the real winners of these two announcements will be users of the "Version 2" iPhone, expected to debut sometime this year, that will be able to use the AT&T "3G" / HSxPA network and then "roam into" Starbucks for an even "higher bandwidth fix" for downloading big media files onto their iPhone along with their caffeine jolt, all for no additional charge and a seamless experience.