Starbucks, the global connector


Starbucks, for all its faults, has two things going for it: extremely friendly baristas and a global WiFi network. Coffee, well that is another story. Still using Starbucks as an Office for almost three months, I have come to appreciate the patience of their people, especially in this day and age when people are just simply rude. Not just rude, but rude.

Of course, their WiFi network, despite some recent speed and quality issues is ubiquitous, and one of the main attractions of Starbucks. (Wish they and T-Mobile would spend money and upgrade their networks.) A single sign-on works globally, and gets your wireless broadband access. Rod Boothby on the Innovation Creators blog, outlines his recent experience, and very succinctly sums up globalization.

But sometimes, to realize how truly standardized, globalized and flat the world is, you have to fly 5,371 miles, walk into a Starbucks and get on the net in 30 seconds.



I had been a Tmobile Hotspot monthly subscriber for almost 2 years, and enjoyed having the knowledge that I could find a Starbucks and get a (usually reliable) WiFi connection when I travel or when I need to get out of the house. Just last week, I “upgraded” to the Tmobile “Total Internet” service, their version of Wireless Broadband, for an additional $20 per month. What I like about this “Total Internet” is this: when I’m at a Starbucks or Kinkos or DFW airport, I can login to the higher-speed Tmobile Hotspot Wifi internet connection, and when I’m not in range of a wifi hotspot, I can pop in their broadband wireless PC card, and get internet connectivity. Love it!


Where I live, I can’t find any starbcks with free wifi. However, I have discovered Panera Bread and the internet perfomance is quite acceptable.

travis d.

Starbucks in Ontario is partnered with Bell, Fido and Rogers and you can use the wifi and it’s just billed to your mobile bill. It’s pretty pricey for per hour usage, but it’s $25 a month for unlimited access. The connection is reliable and fast.

Personally, I prefer the cafes that are more cozy and have their own character. Unfortunately, Wifi in Canada isn’t as prolific as it is in the US. I miss 1369 on Mass ave in Cambridge, MA, where the wifi was free.

I think wifi should be used to attract new customers not to make money off them directly.

Jeff O'Hara

One of my close confidants has been using Starbucks as an office for years and I often meet him there to discuss new ideas and other projects we have in the works. The baristas are always nice and i have made quite a few new friends in my endeavors to Starbucks. Granted their coffee is not the greatest, but getting out of the office to work somewhere else can often create inspiration.
-Jeff O’Hara


Hi Om,

Yeah, it is certainly a security since you are sure to find one there. However, at the price of broadband connections these days, 15 coffees a months will cover the charges of the connection ;)



Om Malik

On the issue of prices, I agree, globally it is not-so-hot spot. However, when in a pinch and looking for an Internet connection, it is a truly global option.

Om Malik

Given how closely wifi is associated with Starbucks, they should try and take control of this asset and move away from partners like T-Mobile. While I understand the appeal of outsourcing the network, but now it is viewed as Starbucks WiFi more than T-Mobile wifi. They should try and make that experience better.



Here in Quebec city Starbuck is unfortunately abscent in the landscape. However, would they be able to get clients with this “broadband” service? Except if it would be free, it couldn’t. Why? Personally I use a coffee called “Star Cafe”: free wireless cable broadband connection, coutches and a full of interresting (and beautiful) people. In fact, I live in Ste-Foy (now Quebec) where there are about 40k students in 10km spare. Here, all the coffee shops have free wireless broadband connections. One started and all the other folowed. About 1 client on 2 or 3 (depending on the period of the day) have their laptop (and there is about 100 to 200 clients at all time (open 24 hours a day) at the Star Cafe). So, if you want to sell coffee in this region, you have to give a free wireless Internet connection in your shop, otherwise you will not do business for long.

So I wonder each time I go to the US: why there is no free wireless connection in coffee shops (specially in StarBuck coffee)?

I feel lucky to have access to such great offices, am I?




It’s also worth noting (I don’t know if it’s the same in the US), but each Starbucks is only provisioned with a 1.5/256kbit ADSL connection. 2 VOIP calls or one person sending a large email attachment, and the whole thing comes to a grinding halt. At $16/h, it can be very frustrating to spend 30min downloading your paltry email attachment, because the kid at the next table is bittorrenting away.

Jochen Lillich

Here in Germany, Starbucks partners with T-Mobile, too. I don’t know about the rates in the US, but our beloved Deutsche Telekom charges 2 Euro per quarter hour for their WiFi here. As much I’d enjoy hanging around Starbucks with my laptop or my Nokia E61 reading interesting blogs like yours, Om — at that price, it’s a not so hot spot for me.


Starbucks’ arrangement with T-Mobile certainly has appeal for the laptop-toting web worker figured out. But I’m afraid you’re not thinking big enough Om. I’ve commented to several friends in recent months that McDonalds has the best footprint to dominate wireless broadband throughout the US (and abroad) if they so choose.

Drive any long distance in the US and you’ll understand where I’m coming from. There’s a McD’s at more than 50% of the interstate exits. Sure we City Slickers might prefer Starbucks or a Panera, but neither has much, if any, market penetration outside the City limits. I’ve spent my entire career in energy and Oil & Gas, and have rarely encountered a Starbucks within 25-miles of my business travel destinations. But I can assure you there was ALWAYS a McD’s within spittin’ distance of my hotel. While I don’t frequent McD’s when at home, I can also assure you that in locales with limited choice a McD’s is a welcome sight because an egg McMuffin and a quality cup of coffee are known quantities. I know some McD’s already have hotspots, but I haven’t seen any evidence of a cohesive rollout strategy.


If only that was true in New Zealand, where Starbucks are agents for the leading local telco who charges like a wounded bull. Nothing free around here!

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