Starbucks goes large with Wi-Fi rollout

Coffee drinkers across Britain will soon have more options when they want to surf the Web or access corporate networks on the move

Coffee chain Starbucks is more than doubling the size of its Wi-Fi network.

Wireless broadband networks are currently being installed in a further 98 Starbucks outlets, in locations such as Inverness, Reading and Canterbury. This will take the total number of Wi-Fi enabled stores to 154.

Starbucks said it took the decision to increase its wireless coverage after a "strong customer response" to its existing network. The Starbucks Wi-Fi network is run in partnership with T-Mobile, under the T-Mobile HotSpot brand.

There are already several thousand Wi-Fi hot spots in the UK. Many are commercial networks where users must pay for access, such as the T-Mobile HotSpots. Others, though, are free, for example the Broadscape network.

But recent studies of the UK Wi-Fi scene have suggested that usage is very low at many hot spots, and there is some doubt that the commercial model is sustainable.

Starbucks will not disclose exactly many people have taken advantage of its Wi-Fi network, but insists that it has been a success. "While we have not disclosed specific numbers we can say that there has been a strong customer response to the T-Mobile HotSpot service in our stores," said Cathy Heseltine, marketing director of Starbucks UK. "Our customers appreciate the flexibility that the service gives them, whether they are using it to download corporate files and presentations, or surfing the Internet for fun."

Click here to see a map of the UK's Wi-Fi hot spots.