Starbucks ditches AT&T for Google's Wi-Fi connection

Starbucks and Google team up to bring faster W-iFi to the coffee chain.

Mario Anzuoni/Reuters/File
Coffee packages sit in a Starbucks Coffee store in Pasadena, Calif. The Seattle-based coffee chain is switching from AT&T Wi-Fi to Google's Wi-Fi service.

Starbucks has set the coffee shop standard: a reliable menu and free Wi-Fi. The coffee company is now trying to make this combination a little bit better – and we’re not talking about a new pumpkin spice latte.

Starbucks and Google are partnering up to bring the coffee shop’s customers a faster Wi-Fi connection that will be, at minimum, 10 times faster than the current AT&T wireless connection, according to a blog post from Google Access general manager Kevin Lo. In Google Fiber cities such as Austin; Kansas City, Kan.; and Provo, Utah, Google promises that Internet will be 100 times faster than before.

The free Wi-Fi service will operate in all 7,000 company-operated Starbucks stores in the United States within the next 18 months. Starbucks is not disclosing the financial terms of the transition in Wi-Fi providers. 

Starbucks stores are currently connected with an AT&T T1 line that reaches data speeds of 1.5 megabits per second, says Linda Mills, a Starbucks spokeswoman. The Wi-Fi change is an attempt to anticipate future customer needs, and the switch to Google will increase Internet speeds, says Miller. 

Google has also been sponsoring programs that offer free Wi-Fi in large cities. There is free Wi-Fi in a 10-block radius around Google’s office in New York and as well as the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. The company has also agreed to bring Wi-Fi to 31 San Francisco locations by spring 2014.  

Starbucks first started offering free AT&T Wi-Fi in 2008. Customers who used a prepaid Starbucks Card at least once a month had access to two consecutive hours per day of free Wi-Fi. 

Google makes the majority of its revenue from advertising. In the second quarter of 2013, advertising made up 86 percent of Google's earnings. Putting more people on the Internet, especially on the company's Wi-Fi connection, gives Google the opportunity to turn over more profits from advertisements: more exposure to ads, more profits for Google. 

In an effort to keep customers and their wireless devices energized, Starbucks has also begun testing new wireless Wi-Fi charging stations at several stores in Boston. Customers simply lay their smart device on a Powermat surface in the store to begin recharging. 

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