April 30, 2003, 12:00 AM

More wi-fi on the way

Borders Group has signed on with T-Mobile USA to offer wi-fi throughout its 400 Borders Books & Music stores. Kinko`s is also planning a rollout.

Retailers who were asking “What’s wi-fi?” a month ago are getting a quick tutorial. Suddenly high-speed wireless fidelity, which links computer users to the Internet through a wireless connection, is popping up in all kinds of stores. The latest: Borders Group Inc. has signed on with T-Mobile USA to offer wi-fi throughout its 400 Borders Books & Music stores. The service is already available in 145 Borders stores in California, Florida, Georgia, Michigan and New Jersey.

Borders customers favor the latest trends in both commerce and technology, so offering them high-speed wireless access to the Internet seemed a natural fit, the company says. “It certainly fits our demographic of people using wireless laptops and handheld PDAs,” a spokeswoman says. “It’s something we know that our customers will respond to.”

Starbucks is offering the same service in coffee shops nationwide, hoping to attract customers who want to browse the Internet while, presumably, spending money on coffee and snacks. By the end of this year, T-Mobile expects to have wi-fi access available in 2,000 Starbucks cafes. Kinko’s Inc. expects to have most of its 1,000 retail stores offering wi-fi access this year. And T-Mobile says it’s planning to offer wi-fi in United Airlines and Delta Airlines airport clubs. T-Mobile is shooting for 5,000 wi-fi locations by the end of the year. Users pay $29.99 for unlimited access or $2.99 for 15 minutes on a pay-as-you-go basis.

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