McDonald's Corp., a fast food restaurant chain based in Oak Brook, IL, U.S. with restaurants worldwide, has chosen Wayport Inc. to provide wireless Internet service in dining rooms and drive-through windows at several thousand of its U.S. restaurants.
Wayport officials called it the biggest single deal yet to create wireless Internet "hot spots."
They said the familiar golden arches will offer a reliable place for road-weary workers to download e-mail or surf the Internet.
Officials with privately held Wayport, based in Austin, TX, U.S. declined to disclose financial terms of the deal, which was announced Tuesday.
McDonald's has been testing Wi-Fi—a high-speed Internet connection that many computers can share within a confined space—at about 300 restaurants in the U.S. areas San Francisco, CA, Seattle, WA, Chicago, IL, and New York, NY, for the past 9 months using Wayport, Toshiba and Cometa Networks Inc.
McDonald's spokeswoman Lisa Howard said the company hopes to outfit 6,000 restaurants — nearly half its U.S. locations —by year-end.
McDonald's will charge U.S. $2.95 for two hours of connectivity and may continue some of its pilot promotions, such as free connections for buying an "Extra Value Meal."
By offering Wi-Fi, the fast-food giant is following the lead of Starbucks, which offers wireless connectivity in many of its coffee shops. Some analysts see Starbucks as a more natural fit for Wi-Fi.
A spokesman for rival Cometa, which has agreed to set up hot spots in Barnes & Noble bookstores, said a deal with McDonald's didn't make economic sense.
Many Wi-Fi providers are privately held, so solid numbers are hard to get, but Wayport is far behind cell phone provider T-Mobile, which says it has hot spots in about 3,500 retail locations, including Starbucks.
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