Coffee lovers heading to their local Starbucks to browse the Internet and take advantage of the franchise’s free Wi-Fi can expect some changes. While the company had previously looked to AT&T to provide wireless Internet to its many locations, it recently announced that it will turn to Google for the service. Starbucks, Google, and Level 3 Communications are teaming up to provide wireless Internet that is up to ten times faster than what AT&T currently offers.
The new service will see a gradual roll out. It will first be available in newly built Starbucks over the coming month. From there, the new Google-provided Internet will be expanded to Starbucks locations throughout the country. In eighteen months time, all 7,000+ Starbucks locations in the US should be outfitted with the new, faster Internet. Starbucks officials have pointed to the deal as the foundation for a significant and ongoing partnership.
Those connected to the project have also warned consumers that there will likely exist some disparity in speeds between locations. Still, the new system is set to represent a substantial improvement over what is currently in place at most locations. The service that AT&T provides is connected through a T1 line, which allows for approximately 1.5 megabit speeds. The Google Internet should represent an improvement over these speeds at every location, but it is uncertain if each connection will offer the full 10x increase.
Interestingly, AT&T stated that it had also offered to provide Starbucks with Internet that was ten times faster than what it currently supplies. The fact that Starbucks chose to go with Google could be an indication that it values many of the other services the company provides and sees the Internet giant as an important strategic partner for navigating the digital age.
By having a top-notch wireless Internet service for its locations, Starbucks stands to attract a young, tech savvy crowd who often spend hours at a time in coffee shops. The move to faster speeds is also important as the behaviors and needs of Internet users become increasingly complex. The streaming and downloading of audio and video files accounts requires substantial speeds and bandwidths. Similarly, the use of video chat programs creates increased strain for networks. With so many demanding things going on at once, it’s easy for a connection to get bogged down if it is not properly equipped to handle the data load. As such, the move to faster speeds seems to be a natural one for Starbucks and Google a natural partner. It is likely that many other businesses that offer free Wi-Fi as a means of attracting customers will need to improve their connections. As unlimited data plans become increasingly rare and costly, it is likely that Starbucks will see its wireless Internet become an even bigger draw.
Google is also working with Starbucks to upgrade and renovate the Starbucks Digital Network. While details on how it will revise the page that users first see when attempting to access Wi-Fi in its shops remain scarce, it is probably safe to assume that Starbucks will benefit from having Google’s web expertise applied to the page. Seeing as how millions of users access Starbucks’ Internet in a given week, there will likely be a lot of satisfied net browsers once these changes are widely implemented.