Google Bringing Faster Free WiFi to 7,000 Starbucks Stores

Google is replacing AT&T WiFi in Starbucks stores as the coffee chain works to increase network speeds for its customers.

Google is giving WiFi systems inside Starbucks stores a big shot of network caffeine by bringing in new high-speed service, which promises to be 10 times faster than the existing AT&T systems it will replace.

The WiFi deal for 7,000 company-owned Starbucks stores in the United States was announced by Kevin Lo, general manager of Google Access, in a July 31 post on the Google Official Blog.

Starbucks stores located in communities that have super-high-speed Google Fiber service will get in-store WiFi connections that are even faster—up to 100 times that of existing speeds, according to Lo's post.

"Coffee shop and Internet —it's a pairing that many of us have come to rely on," wrote Lo. "WiFi access makes work time, downtime, travel time and lots of in-between times more enjoyable and productive. That's why we're teaming up with Starbucks to bring faster, free WiFi connections to all 7,000 company-operated Starbucks stores in the United States over the next 18 months."

Such free access in Starbucks locations and elsewhere "has become an important part of many communities over the years, such as in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, or for students without Internet at home who do their homework at Starbucks," he wrote.

The new networks will begin rolling out immediately in new Starbucks stores across the country, but will take time to be featured in existing stores, he wrote. "We appreciate your patience if it's still a little while before we get to your favorite Starbucks—you'll know your new network is ready to go when you can log in to the 'Google Starbucks' SSID [service set identifier]."

The price of the deal has not been announced.

"Our goal is to continue to provide our customers with the best in-store experience possible, and we are excited to offer these kinds of unparalleled experiences at a broad scale," Adam Brotman, chief digital officer of Starbucks, said in a statement.

The construction of the faster WiFi networks inside the stores will also include help from Level 3 Communications, an international telecommunications company, which will upgrade existing WiFi devices and manage in-store connectivity throughout the system, according to Starbucks.

As part of the project, Starbucks and Google will also work together to co-develop a next-generation Starbucks Digital Network throughout the store chain, according to Starbucks.

The faster speeds will be comparable to 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) mobile broadband service, which averages from 5M bps to 10M bps, according to a July 31 report by The Denver Post. The WiFi service will feature Google's branding, the paper reported.

Industry pricing indicates that the deal may be worth $50 million a year for Level 3, D.A. Davidson & Co. telecom analyst Donna Jaegers estimated, according to The Denver Post.

In July, Google presented the City of San Francisco with a $600,000 grant to build a WiFi network that will provide free WiFi throughout the city's 31 parks and open spaces. The grant will cover the cost of needed equipment, installation and maintenance of the system for two years. The installation of the system will begin in December 2013, and all 31 sites are expected to be fully completed and ready for use by the spring of 2014.

Google has already created free WiFi networks in other cities where the company has local connections. In January 2013, Google announced the creation of a free outdoor WiFi network in the southwest section of the Chelsea neighborhood in Manhattan, where Google has its New York headquarters. The system encapsulates the first Google-served neighborhood in Manhattan and is slated to be the largest contiguous WiFi network in New York City, according to Google. The network was offered in partnership with a local nonprofit neighborhood group, Chelsea Improvement Co.