News

McDonald's serves Wi-Fi access to UK customers

BT is adding Wi-Fi access points to 500 McDonald's restaurants across the UK.

By the time the rollout is completed at the end of March, BT will have 2,200 Openzone access sites across the country.

Most of the McDonald's sites chosen are drive-through restaurants, in addition to its flagship locations in London. Drive-through customers tend to park nearby to eat their food, and will be able to access the Openzone service on their laptop or PDA if they are within 100m of the site.

"We expect it will initially be business people who use it. We know they meet up at McDonald's when they're on the road," said McDonald's head of IT Steve Tiley.

Tiley expected other customers to start using the service over the next 12 to 18 months, perhaps using handheld devices.

The Openzone service costs from £10 a month for 120 minutes of access on a subscription basis, or 20p per minute on a pay-as-you-go system, at any Openzone site. These include Costa coffee shops, Hilton Hospitality hotels, Welcome Break Group motorway service stations and BAA airports. Users can also buy £6 vouchers at each site, giving one hour's access.

Hotels have the highest Openzone use, said BT spokesman John Carter, although he did not have details of how long users spend online in different locations.

Tiley expected each customer to use the service for 20 to 30 minutes. "The typical stay, over all customers, is 15 to 20 minutes and we think they'll stay longer when they're online. We're predicting that people will use the service at breakfast, just before lunch and in the afternoon. That's outside our peak periods and so it's fine for us if people have a coffee, spread out a bit and spend a bit of time. It gives them a reason to go to McDonald's instead of somewhere else."

Starbucks began a rollout of Wi-Fi access in its UK coffee shops last February, through T-Mobile International, after performing successful trials in six locations.

The McDonald's rollout will be too late for BT's planned promotional week, Wireless Broadband Week, which starts on 26 January. During the week, BT will offer free access, with no time limit, through its access points.

Gillian Law writes for IDG News Service

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