Free Wifi at Starbucks?

When Starbucks introduced for-pay Wi-Fi in 2002, it seemed like a great deal (especially for business customers who could expense it). But five years later, the model appears old and stale and ready for a complete overhaul.

Prediction: Starbucks will start rolling out free Wi-Fi access within one year.

Doubt it. I’m not privy to Starbucks deal with T-Mobile, it does seem that ultimately TMo has the final say in whether their wifi service will be free or not. I do see Elgan’s point about how Starbucks is using free wifi to stimulate certain kinds of transactions, but that’s a subsidy as opposed to offering it for free.

It may be premature for Elgin to label Starbucks wifi model "stale" given that so many people take advantage of it. Again, I am not privy to statistics on this, but anecdotally I can say that whenever I walk into a Starbucks I am highly likely to see someone online, and among my friends I hear that Starbucks is often their second office because of the connectivity.

Lastly, while I am sympathetic to the McDonald’s argument, the fact remains that they don’t have anywhere near the coverage that Starbucks does with their wifi service.

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4 thoughts on Free Wifi at Starbucks?

  1. I was going to write that but then I remembered a couple of recent experiences, the McD’s on Lawrence Expressway by 101 is actually pretty nice with comfortable seating, televisions, and of course, wifi. Also, those McCafe’s are a big departure from the typical fast food joint, nicely done.

  2. Additionally, they may decide to go with other types of value sharing deals. For instance, I was just in NYC and had a chance to test the new “free Starbucks Wifi for iTunes” with my new Touch. It worked well–turn it on, a Starbucks symbol appears at the bottom left, and from within iTunes you can see what song is playing. Needless to say you can buy it right then (or the last 10 songs or any song in iTunes for that matter). NYC and Seattle today, San Francisco and Chicago not far behind…

  3. I can understand that TMo wouldn’t want to give up their revenue stream, but it seems that more people want Free access. I wonder if they would consider a split model of, “pay if you want to, or subsidize your access with ads.”

    -dislaimer – I work for AnchorFree

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