Starbucks Free WIFI Heatmap

It was all over the news yesterday about how Starbucks Free WIFI is going to change the way we connect to Internet, so I got curious and generated a “Starbucks Free WIFI Heatmap” based on all Starbucks stores in the United States. The resulting map is seriously stunning, take a look at the image below:

There is a live version running on my machine (will try to upload to my site later for you to play) and I can see how this is gonna make some cities go “WiMax” without actually having “WiMax” 🙂

7 thoughts on “Starbucks Free WIFI Heatmap”

  1. An exercise in completely useless maps, perhaps.

    When did I ever get a Starbucks wifi signal across just one avenue from a Starbucks in New York? Never. One has to be in* the store or very* nearby on a side-street. Walk to the next block up the street and you've got no signal. These blobs of coverage are 100% misleading.

  2. @Damion: you would be surprised to see the city-block level clusters – its not as bad as you think. Of course it all depends on how Starbucks implements it – but for a city like Chicago or LA you should be able to use WiFi pretty much everywhere.

  3. @Gutierrez: like your example. have a detailed map running on my local just like the one you mention, just didn't get a chance to upload the map tiles and the app somewhere 🙂

  4. @Chandu: yes, I would be very* surprised if city block-level wifi from Starbucks blanketed Chicago and LA “pretty much everywhere.”

    I'm working with empirical evidence from experience in New York, Boston, San Francisco and Seattle (Starbucks headquarters) — which are likely identical to implementations in New York, Chicago, and LA; a colleague has been counsel to their CTO for years and I'm rather familiar with how Starbucks IT operates. They broadcast inside and immediately-around stores, not one or more city blocks around stores as the heat map would otherwise suggest. Further, it's altogether impossible for current wifi systems to broadcast through many layers of brick, stone and cement without extensive scanning/testing and simple or directional repeaters. I can't come up with a legitimate reason why they would even attempt to broadcast beyond their surrounding sidewalks and parking lots — there's not much (if anything) in it for them and they'd quickly degrade the quality of service they're ultimately hoping to offer their patrons.

    I'd love free city-wide wifi, but Starbucks can't offer this on its own. This idea that Starbucks wifi service blankets massive regions and I can walk 10 blocks in any direction with free wifi either isn't reality — or all of my mobile devices are miraculously hobbled and only I'm having trouble seeing Starbucks wifi a block from Starbucks 😉

  5. Chicago blanketed by Starbucks? Gimme a break, once your outside of the white or retail areas there are no Starbucks. That's half the city. Then there's the reality of Wi-Fi. I'm sitting less then a block from a Starbucks and I can't see it's signal, nor can I see the signal from the neighbor across the street. Wi-Fi isn't line of sight, it's limited to 120 ft. if mounted inside, and 300 ft. mounted outside. 3 guesses where Starbucks mount their Wi-Fi antennae…

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