Since Starbucks is now offering free WiFi to users of At&T Cellular Broadband, I thought I would try to take advantage. I was particularly interested in the option as 3G does not always work as advertised when I want to use the internet at Starbucks in New York City. There are a number of reasons for this, but mostly I think its due to the nature of the large buildings.
Anyway, I have a Dell XPS m1330 laptop with an integrated cellular modem. It is very nice. There is nothing ugly sticking out of the computer which means there is nothing to break as well (I have broke a number of these add on cards in the past). When I heard the news of the free WiFi, I decided to give it a try. To my dismay, it didnt work at all. Rather, when I tried to login, I was presented with the typical login screen any user would receive. I gave up and decided to call AT&T a few days later.
I called the 1-800 number for customer service, and after being transferred 3 times, I was connected to a laptop/notebook specialist. Along the way, my story must have been mangled, because the tech just thought I wanted to know how to use WiFi, not how to connect to the hot spot service for free. I explained to him what I wanted to do, and I was quickly told that I could not do that as the AT&T communication software was not compatible with my computer. I found this hard to believe as there is an AT&T sim card in my laptop that works just fine already, but I took his word for it. I did try to argue that since I am paying the same as other customers for the same service that I should be entitled to the same free modem the other customers get which allows them to use the service at Starbucks. He told me this was not an option with no explanation as to why. I pay the same and get less because I provide my own hardware which they give for free (I even signed the same 1 year contract)….
During the conversation, I was told the reason my hardware would not work was that the AT&T communication software would not work with my computer. As I stated above, I didnt totally believe this, so I gave it a try. It works fine. There seem to be no issues at all connecting to 3G. In fact, the software is quite a bit better than the software provided by Dell. I have not yet been to Starbucks to test the free WiFi, but I can see no reason why it will not work. I will post more regarding my experience this evening when I goto Starbucks to work on some motion analysis data.