We smashed the free Wi-Fi at Starbucks

Following BitCo’s announcement that it was partnering with Starbucks South Africa to deliver 1Gbps Wi-Fi to local stores, we had to test the connection ourselves.

We conducted preliminary speed tests at the Starbucks in Melrose Arch, which gave impressive results – showing download speeds of over 300Mbps and upload speeds of over 400Mbps.

This connection is great for Starbucks clients who work from in the store, and is a good value proposition to customers.

BitCo stated that the 1Gbps connection is uncontended and uncapped, so we decided to see how much we could get out of it during a coffee break.

Following our first round of speed tests using high-end smartphones, we visited the Melrose Arch outlet with upgrade hardware.

With promises of delicious frappuccinos, a friend and I packed our gaming laptops and headed to Starbucks to milk its connection.


The test

We arrived at Starbucks and connected to the free Wi-Fi, which showed speed test scores in a similar range to that of our previous test.

This was quite impressive, as there were a large number of customers in the store who were working on their laptops – presumably consuming bandwidth.

Our new test was simple – we would try to download as much as we could in the space of an hour using any means necessary.

Both of us set up a number of applications on our laptops – which included Steam for game downloads and Netflix for downloading episodes.

We also tested downloads using a torrent client to determine whether the connection for torrent downloads was shaped.

We ran our downloads for exactly an hour before disconnecting and tallying up how much we had downloaded using the free Wi-Fi connection.

Steam Library screenshot


Data usage

After our time was up, we calculated how much each application had downloaded – as well as the total amount downloaded for each device.

The scores are listed below. It must be noted that torrent downloads were only tested on the first laptop.

Client Laptop 1 Laptop 2
Steam 43.5GB 21.6GB
Netflix 7GB 17.8GB
Torrents 7.5GB N/A
Total 58GB 39.6GB

Netflix download screenshots

It is apparent from the scores that Steam was easily the most efficient tool for downloading large amounts of data quickly over Starbucks Wi-Fi.

Torrent downloads were allowed on the network, but were not nearly as fast as other methods.

Also noteworthy was the discrepancy between the total amount downloaded by each laptop – which may be due to hardware differences.

For example, my laptop has an SSD installed while my roommate’s does not, reducing his maximum disk write speed.

Below are the peak download speeds reached in each of our respective Steam clients:

  • Laptop 1 – 35.MB/s
  • Laptop 2 – 16.9MB/s

Between us, we managed to download just under 100GB in an hour, which is more than enough to update even a large video game library.

We were extremely impressed by the download speeds delivered by the Steam client, which completely outstripped other applications.

The speed and stability of the Starbucks Wi-Fi connection made it a pleasure to download on, and it was by far the best public Wi-Fi connection I have ever used.


Now read: We tested Starbucks Wi-Fi – and were seriously impressed

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We smashed the free Wi-Fi at Starbucks