Carrier WiFi

Cometa's Hotspot Happy Meal

McDonalds today announced the second phase of its wireless LAN hotspot rollout with startup Cometa Networks Inc. and will soon offer a day's 802.11 access for little more than the price of a Big Mac [ed. note: and with the equivalent nutritional value!].

The fast-food giant is offering the service in 60 restaurants in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Wireless access will be free until the end of August and $2.99 a day thereafter. A Big Mac burger currently costs around $2.70 a pop in the U.S.

AT&T Corp. (NYSE: T) is acting as the public face of the new service, but the underlying infrastructure is being provided by Cometa, the public access WLAN venture that was launched by AT&T, IBM Global Services, Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), and chums last December (see Rainbow Unveiled)

A spokesman for Cometa says the McDonalds's deal gives the first indication of how his company will approach the business of selling wireless LAN access services to potential customers. "This is the beginning of showing the Cometa model," he told Unstrung. "Much lower pricing to encourage much higher usage." The McDonalds per-day pricing plan certainly undercuts the $10 that major hotspot provider T-Mobile USA charges for one-off daily WLAN access. However, T-Mobile has recently cut the price of its subscription service, it now charges $30 per month -- or around a dollar a day -- for hotspot access.

However, T-Mobile also has a network of around 2,000 hotspots in place, whereas Cometa now has around 60 publicly announced sites. When Unstrung asked Cometa about its rollout schedule recently, the company denied that there were any delays and said that it is still on track with its installation plans (see Cometa's Hotspot Hassles and Cometa Leans on Startup).

Meanwhile, McDonalds -- the largest single franchaise in the U.S --is trying out a few different options for offering wireless LAN access in its restaurants. The burgermeisters have also hooked up with Wayport Inc. to launch a 75-site pilot in the Bay Area and plan a further launch in Chicago this year (see Wayport: Wi-Fries & MCI).

— Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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