AT&T revives free iPhone Wi-Fi hotspot access

UPDATE:: According to AT&T statements today, the free Wi-Fi hotspot offer is not limited to iPhone users, but also users of the BlackBerry Bold, Pearl 8120, and 8820.

AT&T today said that on November 4th, some 17,000 hotspots will be open to "select smartphones," which includes several BlackBerry models. The company has plans to offer the service to more devices in the future.

After what should have been called Battlefield Starbucks, the AT&T and T-Mobile skirmish over providing connectivity at the ubiquitous coffee shops, AT&T has brought back its amended free hotspot policy for iPhone.

Today, reports of iPhone users receiving text messages offering Free AT&T Wi-Fi began to appear. The SMS linked to Wi-Fi hotspot homepage that includes a picture of an iPhone with the caption "We know what's hot." Included in the description is the note that connectivity is available at "company-owned Starbucks."

T-Mobile, who had an exclusive contract to provide hotspots at Starbucks, engaged in litigation with the coffee retailer, alleging a violation of contract so AT&T users could receive free Wi-Fi access. T-Mobile's complaint followed AT&T sporadically offering free Wi-Fi to iPhone customers, which prominently featured Starbucks locations.

AT&T's "company-owned" proviso in listing Starbucks hotspots is important because of the over 11,400 United States Starbucks locations, about 40% are not company owned. Furthermore, about 4,000 locations are joint ventures with Barnes & Noble.

In checking the , there are zero Starbucks locations listed, but there is a large number of Barnes & Noble locations listed. Conversely, T-Mobile's hotspot locator is still replete with Starbucks locations, but this will gradually change.

Like the previous free Wi-Fi offers, to connect to an AT&T hotspot, a user must select the local "attwifi" network, enter their 10-digit phone number, and agree to terms and conditions. They are then sent a text message with a secure link to the hotspot.

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