Starbucks Is Partnering with Google to Give Its Wi-Fi a Serious Caffeine Boost

Starbucks announced that it is dropping AT&T, and instead partnering with Google to provide the free Wi-Fi networks offered in its coffee shops. The new network will be about 10 times faster, and will make Starbucks an even more popular “office” destination for nomadic business users.

The transition from Google to AT&T won’t happen overnight. Starbucks plans to start over the next month with the busiest locations (busiest meaning the ones with the highest Wi-Fi usage, not the ones that sell the most coffee necessarily). Starbucks predicts it will take about 18 months, though, to roll out Google Wi-Fi to all 7,000 stores across the United States.

This is huge news for business users. Remote workers, traveling road warriors, and small and medium business entrepreneurs who don’t have the budget for a “real” office have long set up shop at Starbucks. The combination of cozy seating, available power outlets, free Wi-Fi, and a steady supply of caffeine make it virtually ideal. You can walk into just about any Starbucks and find a handful of customers who have set up shop like they live there.

You can find a Starbucks almost anywhere. In a metropolitan area, you’re likely to trip over one every 300 yards or so. Having free Wi-Fi at Starbucks is convenient, but the slower network speed limits what you can get done. It’s great for checking email, or doing a little Web surfing, but trying to engage in a Skype call, or a Lync video conference would be unwise. The choppy audio, or pixelated, buffering video would be more frustrating than its worth.

With a ten-fold boost in speed, though, Starbucks locations won’t just be convenient, they’ll be the supreme destination for remote and mobile workers. Users will actually be able to download a massive presentation in less time than it takes to finish a venti cappuccino. The blazing speed will make it possible to connect with virtual servers, or virtualized applications, and work seamlessly as if you’re sitting next to the server.

Starbucks customers in Kansas City, Austin, and Provo, UT are in for a real treat. Those areas are serviced by Google Fiber, so the switch from AT&T to Google will result in a speed increase of about 100 times. Start looking for the “Google Starbucks” SSID at your local neighborhood Starbucks to figure out if your location of choice has been switched over.

Starbucks better get some more comfy chairs, and put in more power outlets. There’s going to be an explosion of users making Starbucks coffee shops their new semi-official place of business.

UPDATE: In response to this news, an AT&T spokesperson made the following statement:

“Starbucks continues to be an important customer for us and we continue to provide them with a variety of services over AT&T's advanced networks, including the nation's fastest, most reliable 4G LTE network."

Subscribe to the Business Brief Newsletter