Starbucks launches European Wi-Fi trials

Two hot spots will be launched at Starbucks outlets in London as the UK's Wi-Fi market heats up

US coffee shop chain Starbucks announced on Wednesday that it is launching two trial Wi-Fi hot spots in the UK as part of a global rollout of high-speed wireless Internet services.

The hot spots will be at two Starbucks stores in London -- on Fleet St and Broad St. The 802.11b pilot programme will be run in partnership with T-Mobile and HP and will be called T-Mobile Hotspot. Another trial is being conducted at Starbucks stores in Germany.

During the trial period, laptop and PDA users will be able to get free high-speed Internet access, but it's not yet clear how much the service will cost when it launches commercially.

Starbucks is aiming for Wi-Fi hot spots in at least 2,000 of its American stores by the end of this year.

In the UK, both BT and Megabeam have already begun setting up Wi-Fi hot spots.

According to Graham Rivers, director of business development and strategy at T-Mobile, the Starbucks deal could soon be followed by more.

"T-Mobile is committed to making mobile data services a reality. The T-Mobile Hotspot service at Starbucks stores forms an integral part of the programme with further partnerships in the UK expected to follow. Our deployment of the wireless LAN is just one of the mobile business services we will be introducing to enable seamless office functionality on the move," said Rivers in a statement.

HP is supplying the Wireless Connection Manager, the software used to connect users to the Wi-Fi network. The company is also planning to run a number of product-based promotions with Starbucks, including selling some HP mobile products in the coffee shops.

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