Carrier WiFi

BT Beefs Up Hotspots

BT Openzone is to roll out wireless LAN access within McDonalds restaurants in the U.K., in an effort to enable it to reach its much vaunted goal of 4,000 national public hotspots by June this year (see BT Hotspots Mickey D's).

Nearly half of the fast food giant’s 1,200 U.K. outlets are involved in the project aimed at traveling business users, with 250 sites expected to offer 802.11b (11-Mbit/s over 2.4GHz) services by the end of this month, and a total of 561 at the end of March.

According to David Hughes, CEO of BT Wireless Broadband, BT Retail, only eleven “flagship city centre stores” will offer the service. “We are concentrating on drive-through sites, of which there are 720,” he tells Unstrung. “Not all of these have BT broadband coverage yet though. As this coverage increases, then we will also expand the hotspot service.”

The partnership will offer a variety of tariffs for the burger-chomper, ranging from £0.20 ($0.36) a minute to £6 ($11) per hour or £15 ($27) for 24 hours. There is also a monthly tariff available for the extremely greedy.

BT will pay for installation costs, while both companies will invest in promoting the service inside participating eateries. Hughes declined to discuss specifics of the revenue-sharing agreement.

The move is the latest effort in the company’s attempts to hit its publicly stated target of 4,000 hotspots by this summer, up from its current base of 1,800. Last year BT installed access points in 200 payphone kiosks and hooked up with hotspot initiative The Cloud; it will later this month launch a free week of wireless LAN services (see BT Touts Free WiFi Week, BT Puts WiFi in Payphones, and Cloud Looms Over UK Hotspots).

Meanwhile, the keeper of the golden arches also sees the deal as a sure-fire winner. Today’s announcement has the potential to quickly overtake the number of McDonalds outlets in the U.S. offering hotspot services. So far Cometa Networks Inc. and Wayport Inc. have both inked deals with the burgermeister, installing access points in 400 North American restaurants (see Cometa's Hotspot Happy Meal and Wayport: Wi-Fries & MCI).

Steve Tiley, McDonalds' head of management information systems, claims the U.S. projects have altered the vendor’s typical customer demographic. “They have had very good feedback in terms of the social class of person coming in to the restaurant. Our research revealed a large number of 25- to 40-year-old businessmen with one or more degrees. About 60 percent of these respondents said they wouldn’t have come to McDonalds if it wasn’t for the availability of wireless LAN, and about 80 percent said they would come back and use it again.”

Tiley added that “various trials” are also taking place in outlets in France and Holland, and that a free week of wireless LAN access in U.K. McDonalds sites will be available in April this year.

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

Sign In