Carrier WiFi

Is Google the New WiFi of Coffee Snobs?

As I waited in line at my packed neighborhood Starbucks where everyone was on either their phone or laptop, I thought, "Man, that sucks for AT&T Inc. that Google is taking over its 7,000 stores."

Starbucks revealed this week that it will replace the free 1.5 Mbit/s WiFi service AT&T has exclusively provided it since 2008 with Google's Level 3-supported WiFi boasting speeds that are 10 times faster. Apparently, the coffee elite require speeds that work as fast as their over-caffeinated brains.

For its part, AT&T says that it wanted to continue to working with Starbucks and that it, too, offered 10-times more speed. I imagine the Starbucks switcheroo came down to a business decision, or perhaps it saw more of a future with Google for online collaborations on the sign-in screen. But I think there's also a sort-of brand cache to Google that meshes well with coffee shop frequenters, whether they're there to work, see and be seen, or, typically, both.

People love Google, or just the idea of an open, free Google, a lot more than that they do wireless carriers. They clamored for its fiber deployment, even if it hasn't amounted to anything extraordinary yet, and something tells me they'll love the idea of having it in Starbucks as well.

AT&T has been one of the most bullish on WiFi in the US, and in my experience at Starbucks, its service has been reliable enough. It currently has more than 32,000 WiFi hotspots deployed nationwide, as well as more than 25,000 WiFi links outside of Starbucks. Losing the coffee maker's business indoors won't devastate the company, but it doesn't look good either.

Working in the carrier's advantage, however, is the fact that it does still supply WiFi to Chicago's Intelligentsia locations, which any true coffee snob knows is superior to Starbucks anyway...

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

derac7020 9/26/2013 | 11:04:03 AM
10x, 100X speeds ? I don't think so.. So they are moving from B/G routers to N routers or maybe even C routers and that's all well and good but the backhaul is still the same.  Who cares what the connect speed is if the router can't handle wirespeed [hint, it can't] and the backhaul is still DSL [and likely provided by ATT].   No one cares who the provider is only if the service works reliably.  Much ado about nothing.
David Dines 8/8/2013 | 9:01:33 PM
re: Is Google the New Wi-Fi of Coffee Snobs? Love the last sentence, as all of us "true" coffee snobs avoid Starbucks and go to the shops that roast their coffee without charring it. :)
DanJonesLRMobile 8/5/2013 | 6:12:03 PM
re: Is Google the New Wi-Fi of Coffee Snobs? https://plus.google.com/u/0/10...

Apparently speeds will 100x faster in Google Fiber cities.
DanJonesLRMobile 8/5/2013 | 5:24:03 PM
re: Is Google the New Wi-Fi of Coffee Snobs? Doesn't seem to need help shifting the Nexus 7 right now:


I see this more as helpful big data play for Google. Like with the Chromecast dongle they get to learn even more about their customers patterns and coffee habits.
milan03 8/2/2013 | 3:42:00 PM
re: Is Google the New Wi-Fi of Coffee Snobs? Now if only AT&T could get rid of that "connect to WiFi" annoying spam messages baked into their android ROMs, we'd be much happier.
philharvey 8/2/2013 | 2:41:48 PM
re: Is Google the New Wi-Fi of Coffee Snobs? I don't think the Wi-Fi brand cache (sic) matters. No one cares what Wi-Fi provider they're using if the access is free and fast.

This move is all about Starbuck's trying to do more with and for its customers in-store. Providing them music, information and other digital hooks that reinforce the "only at Starbuck's" experience.

Starbuck's stores are just nodes on a big network. Google probably appreciates this fact and is in a better position to help Starbuck's get more out of each node than AT&T. One acts like a telco. The other, a software telco.
Ray Le Maistre 8/2/2013 | 2:25:18 PM
re: Is Google the New Wi-Fi of Coffee Snobs? Oh, and we definitely need more stories about coffee.
Ray Le Maistre 8/2/2013 | 2:24:51 PM
re: Is Google the New Wi-Fi of Coffee Snobs? Shame the Starbucks coffee isn't up the same standard as its Wi-Fi.

Surely Google will look for a way to tie in sales of its Nexus tablet or target personalized ads to users in coffee shops....
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