Bucking Starbucks' WiFi Pricing

Starbucks and T-Mobile are rolling out their wifi hotspots around the UK. For a while, connectivity was free — in Soho people took advantage of the wireless spillover from the Starbucks in Wardour Street to work next door at Freedom, which has a licensed bar, rather than in the coffeeshop itself (reception preceeds perception, remember).

Perhaps they are counting on pent-up demand — or Intel’s pervasive Centrino advertising — to drive sales, but at over ?5/hour, I think they’re pricing themselves out of their core market — wired workers who simply want to log in and check their email, or VPN into their office networks. Admittedly 802.11 is cheaper and faster to use than dialup from a mobile phone, but the likely early adopters are the most likely diss Starbucks for its watery lattes, corporate ethics and cookie-cutter decor: given some competition from better chains and indies, expect prices to fall, and fast. For now, I’ll still be checking my email over a decaf soy latte at Tinderbox in Angel.


  1. T-Mobile’s service in the U.S. (primarily at Starbucks) went through the same free-cost curve. Now $40/month … I assume unlimited bandwidth. At that price you at least have the potential to daisy chain links. Wonder whether there is a cost effective option at 5squids/hr … you know, you hang out at Starbucks with your laptop acting as a wirless hub/router and sell off access for some reasonable amount. 10 hours, 50squids. 10 people costs 50p/hr, charge a quid/hr, make 50squids a day … enough for a coffee a sandwich and cheap hotel. Your’re travelling anyway ….

    Oh, and I like that you have a nice bright (LED?) sign on the back of your laptop screen advertising services.

  2. Hmm — I haven’t looked at the tech they are using for authentication and access control, but yes I can’t really see any way they can stop you taking a mesh box in and sharing the connection out. Will stop in on Wardour street and log some packets to see — lovely idea.

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