Starbucks' Wi-Fi Is The Fastest Public Internet In The United States, So Get Your Latte To Stay
The next time you roll your eyes at the exorbitant price of your morning cup of Starbucks, consider this — the cost of your beverage includes both your daily dose of caffeine and Starbucks' Wi-Fi, which happens to be the fastest free Wi-Fi in the United States. That's right, the real winner at Starbucks isn't their latte. It's their high-speed Internet.
According to Open Signal's U.S. Wi-Fi Report, the Wi-Fi at Starbucks is more than twice as fast as its next nearest competitor, McDonald's. So while those golden arches may look inviting in the morning, and will cost you a fraction of the price, be warned — half the price also means half the speed (of the Wi-Fi, that is). With a download speed of 9.01 megabits per second, Starbucks Wi-Fi is actually considerably faster than even the best 4G networks.
3G, that ancient version of LTE, has a speed of 1.36 Mbps, and HSPA+ (effectively the newer version of LTE) comes in at 4.31 Mbps. While AT&T, Verizon and company have continued to step up their Internet game with 4G speeds managing 6.52 Mbps, none are serious competition for Starbucks. So don't be proud — connect your phone to Starbucks' network when you're in a store.
In fact, Starbucks' download speed makes it more than fully functional for essentially every major web activity you can think of, which explains why the coffee giant sometimes looks more like a computer store than a cafe. As per the Federal Communications Commission's Broadband Speed Guide, streaming a video in HD, video conferencing, or even two-way gaming requires a minimum download speed of only 4 Mbps, which is about what McDonald's offers.
Starbucks then, allows its Wi-Fi users ample resources to surf the Internet and stream videos to their hearts' content. Moreover, the speed of Starbucks' Wi-Fi is actually faster than the average Wi-Fi speeds of most states as of 2012. A 2013 article in StateTech examined the average download speeds of each state and Washington D.C., and if Starbucks were a state, it would rank well within the top 10.
The state with the highest average download speed, at 10.88 Mbps, was Delaware, closely followed by our nation's capital at 10.75. At 9.01 Mbps, Starbucks would've placed 9th in the list, right after Utah and right before Washington state. The states with the slowest Internet? Alabama and Arkansas, who each averaged a download speed of just 3.74 Mbps, eliminating the HD option from video streaming for the two states.
But of course, not all Starbucks Wi-Fi is created equal. In July of last year, Starbucks announced that it would be abandoning AT&T as their Internet provider in favor of Google. 7,000 of the Starbucks locations in the United States would make the switch with the hope that "speedier Internet [would] make the time customers spen[t] at Starbucks even more enjoyable and productive," as Kevin Lo, the General Manager of Google Access, told Forbes.
This decision turned out to be a very good one, as Starbucks customers who are on Google's network experience speeds nearly twice as fast as customers on AT&T's network, whose download speed clocks in at 5.13 Mbps.
Starbucks' Internet speed may be particularly appealing to travelers, who might not want to shell out the big bucks for Wi-Fi in their hotel rooms. Most hotels, which force their patrons to pay for Internet connection, can't compete with Starbucks when it comes to speed. The Hilton, which wins among the surveyed hotels with a download speed of about 8.5 Mbps, will cost you $100 per night. This price tag certainly makes the cost of your caramel macchiato a little more palatable.
The Hyatt, the most expensive hotel on the list, will cost $110 a night, but will have a download speed of only 4.5 Mbps. At the other end of the spectrum, a Motel 6 room will only set you back $41, but forget the Internet — its download speed is only 1.3 Mbps, barely enough for you to navigate an interactive Internet page.
Of course, you don't have to go a Starbucks to access free Wi-Fi. Among the other popular retailers that double as Internet hot spots, McDonald's and Best Buy came out on top. But the next fastest after these two leaders saw a big drop in download speeds — Lowes was a distant third to Best Buy's speed of 3.9 Mbps at only 1.96 Mbps. The worst of all was Panera, who barely cleared 1 Mbps.
So while it might not seem like you're getting a good deal on your morning cup of Joe, just remember the added benefits of that Starbucks coffee — it's all in the Internet, and it's all so fast.
Images: Getty Images (3)