Free WiFi at Starbucks Coffee Houses in Germany

Mobile Internet via WiFi

Mobile Internet via WiFi, Picture: Phone Guide Germany

The Starbucks Coffee Company offers free WiFi in 140 coffee houses in Germany. Smartphone, netbook and notebook users can access the Internet for up to two hours without being charged for it – accept for the coffee or cake they order at Starbucks. Starbucks guests need only bring a mobile, wireless-enabled device and connect to the BT Openzone hotspot at the Starbucks coffee house. Customers of British Telecom can use the BT MobileXpress clients to establish a secure connection to their corporate network and access their e-mails, files and applications as if they were in their office. BT MobileXpress does also provide them with hassle-free access to more than 100,000 public hotspots throughout Germany, e.g. in hotels, restaurants or shops.

The service was installed by the network and IT service provider BT over the past few months in most Starbucks locations. BT has already set up WiFi services in more than 650 coffee houses in Britain and Ireland last year and will also offer the service for Starbucks coffee houses in Spain and Portugal.

“Offering WiFi Thrills Selfish Digital Cheapskates”

Once coffee shops were the retail pioneers of WiFi in order to gain more customers. In 2003 Starbucks and T-Mobile (Telekom Deutschland) offered WiFi at Starbucks coffee houses for a charge of € 7.95 per hours – today that would be rather expensive. But while Starbucks is now launching a free WiFi service in its coffee houses in Germany, other coffee shops are shutting exiting WiFi services down or are introducing official computer-use policies because they believe that WiFi is a profit killer. Earlier this month I read an article of the Los Angeles Times about coffee shops, bars and restaurants in California banning WiFi to make room for customers without laptops. “There is now a market niche for not having WiFi”, one guy is quoted in this article.

In another recent article about free and unlimited WiFi at Starbucks coffee houses in the United States Mike Elgan of Computerworld writes that offering limited free Internet access my be the wrong path. In his opinion this will result in coffee houses filled with laptop campers who jockey for outlet access and use up all the tables while people just buying coffee will not be able to find a place to sit. It would be better to either kill WiFi altogether and thereby free up some tables or to make WiFi free and unlimited, Elgan writes.

“Free WiFi Gives Advantages to Large Companies”

However, Starbucks might succeed with its free WiFi approach because it is a big company. “The ugly truth is that free WiFi gives advantages to large companies over small ones. The larger they are, the more they benefit from free WiFi”, Elgan argues. While small companies offering WiFi often struggle just to provide the service and might be better off simply shutting down their WiFi networks, Starbucks can be a media, marketing and advertising platform because it is massive, ubiquitous and global. “Its scale enables Starbucks to both efficiently provision Wi-Fi and leverage it for profit. Another benefit is that spreading the word about free Wi-Fi and free content encourages customers to visit Starbucks chain stores while traveling”, Elgan writes.

According to Elgan, Starbucks is taking advantage of a change in the economics of coffee shops and monetizing this cultural change: “That change is caused by the digital revolution. People hang out in coffee shops to socialize and read. The way we socialize and the way we read is changing. It happens over the Internet now”. All other coffee shops will only be fine when making really good coffee.

In the United States Starbucks will unveil its in-store digital network this fall with free content from iTunes, “The New York Times”, “USA Today”, “The Wall Street Journal”, Yahoo! and others for customers. For more information on the Starbucks digital network please read the Starbucks press release.

Find Free WiFi Hotspots in Berlin:

One thought on “Free WiFi at Starbucks Coffee Houses in Germany

  1. Kevin

    I am used to have free wifi basically in the downtown area of every major city home in the U.S.A.
    Though right now i am on a business trip to cologne, germany and there is basically no free wifi anywhere. I found one right now in a Starbucks at the Subway station “Neumarkt” in case anyone is ever in Cologne. i am sitting in the starbucks right now. Something i noticed is that in Germany, some starbucks use different wifi provider, in general most stores, wether McDonalds or Starbucks and so on use other companies to provide the wifi and don’t operate it themselves.
    Most Starbucks i’ve seen in Cologne use Telekom, which is the company that owns t mobile as far as i know, and they charge 4,95 euros for 1 hour of wifi. Some Starbucks like this one use a company called BT, which is from the UK, because when i went on speedtest to check the connection, the ip was located somewhere in the UK. So maybe german networks aren’t allowed to offer free wifi?

    The hotspot limits one session to 2 hours, though it says the amount of sessions a day are unlimited.


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