Coffee, Wine & WiFi


Restaurants and cafes represent the fastest growing segment of public Wi-Fi, according to JiWire. They estimate that 34,544 eating establishments currently offer Wi-Fi access, which is up from 16,277 a year ago. Tokyo (1,037) has the most restaurants and cafes with Wi-Fi access, followed by London (578) and Singapore (410). Within the United States, New York City (328) has the most eating establishments with Wi-Fi access, followed by San Francisco (319) and Chicago (271). Implications of this? Maybe Skype should really focus on making their mobile client better. And definite need for more WiFi-based location-specific services, and better feed readers for mobile devices.


Jesse Kopelman

Mike, I think you’re confused. In the mobile phone space, geographic coverage takes a huge backseat to covered population. The number of WiFi users/day in a typical cafe is probably comparable to the number of users for a typical light-suburban/rural cellular tower. I don’t know if any US carrier has as many as 35,000 towers. So, WiFi coverage, at least for sedentary users, may be a lot more caparable to mobile phone coverage than you think.

Dorian Benkoil

I would love to see any evidence of an effect on eateries’ revenue or profits. IE, does having a hotspot mean more/less money for the establishment? (I know Starbucks makes nearly all its money off me cuz of its hotspots, and some establishments have lost me for lunch because they didn’t have it — or wanted me to pay on top of the $20/month I already give T-Mobile.)

Mike McCamon

One of the things that’s interesting about these sorts of numbers is it looks impressive. Call it good, er great, PR. And I will admit it’s going better than I expected and yes I had been a very frequent user myself. However, to get a true picture of the phenomenon I like to translate these sorts of metrics into the types of numbers people in the mobile phone space use – coverage.

Assuming a generous 200ft range one standard Wi-Fi AP can cover 125,663 square feet (2-D model – not 3-D which gets harder). Given that there’s ~28M sq feet in a square mile that gives us about 220 APs needed to cover a square mile with standard Wi-Fi – which of course is generous as I’m assuming range is square and not circular/elliptical just to simplify things.

If every café had only one AP that means today’s Wi-Fi’s coverage in this market equates to just over 155 square miles of area – the size of Belzoni, Mississippi. Wondering about NY? With 328 “towers” it’s coverage is 1.48 square miles or about 950 acres.

Sorry. My own version of Freak-o-nomics.

Jesse Kopelman

Perhaps this what comes from living in Boston, but I’ve always thought BEER to be the perfect WiFi accompanyment.

Niall Kennedy

WiFi is an easy way for small businesses such as cafes and restaurants to connect many point-of-sale locations with less wiring. Even if your visitors never use or are unable to use the connection (WEP, WPA) businesses benefit by connecting their internal systems together over a wireless network.

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