iPass Gets Fries and a Shake

By Eric Griffith

November 10, 2003

McDonald's has yet to pick an overall provider as it experiments with hotspots, but one clear winner has emerged: business users of the iPass service will get access at all of the restaurant's McD Wireless hotspots now and in the future.

Mobile professionals are probably not the first customer one thinks of when you mention the McDonald's chain of fast food restaurants, but virtual network operator iPass today announced that it will test all current and future McDonald's hotspots (McD Wireless) as "Enterprise Ready." This deal opens the fast food giant up to 400,000 monthly iPass users who might seek out the Golden Arches as a pit stop as they work on the road.

According to Greg Waring, the director of Business Development at McDonald's, based on surveys, his company has determined that its Wi-Fi services are used largely by "white-collar, road warrior types."

Mike Moore, the director of Business Development at iPass, says in turn that this agreement is perfect for the demographic that some call windshield warriors. "People who don't travel as much, who are local, [and] spend the bulk of their day in the car ... can now get some food and Wi-Fi."

McDonald's has been in the throes of a pilot program with hotspots in major markets since March of this year. Each market has a different hotspot vendor providing access. Currently they are live in New York City and Seattle (with AT&T and Cometa Networks), Chicago (with SurfHere by Toshiba), and San Francisco and Boise, Idaho (with Wayport). This week Wayport also officially lit up locations around Portland, Ore., including Portland itself, Beaverton, Hillsboro, Gresham and Tigard.

iPass is already in partnerships with SurfHere and Wayport; McDonald's locations serviced by those providers are already "Enterprise Ready" by iPass standards. Cometa locations are going under testing now as per an earlier deal. In the future, all Cometa-based hotspots will be ready for use by the iPass client. iPass also has partnerships with wireless ISPs like FatPort and StayOnline.

Roaming across McD Wireless is now a given for iPass subscribers, but the three hotspot vendors have to create their own roaming agreements for consumers who might go from network to network. McDonald's is staying out of that one.

Waring says the use of iPass on McD Wireless is "like a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. We had to have some quality in place based on our relationship with Intel and being ready for Centrino. Now we can provide a safe, secure and ubiquitous footprint."

Some see the various McDonald's pilot programs as a shootout with the winner earning the right to provide Wi-Fi for all of the fast food chain's 30,000 locations worldwide. Waring says one shouldn't necessarily assume one provider will win out, though he admits that is one possible scenario.

How many of those 30,000 restaurants could be hotspots?

"The potential is there for every restaurant to be a hotspot," says Waring. "We're learning, figuring out locations customers prefer for this ... anything is possible."

All customers of the McDonald's hotspots can provide information on their experience via a survey. Chances are good they get a lot of survey results since Waring says the corporation is giving away one notebook computer and one Palm-based PDA each month in each of the six markets.

McDonald's customers can identify a McD Wireless access location by looking for a sign with the Golden Arches logo within an "@" symbol. A complete list of restaurants with wireless can be found at www.mcdwireless.com.

Wi-Fi Planet Conference How has McDonald's sucessfully embraced Wi-Fi? Join us at the Wi-Fi Planet Conference & Expo, December 2 - 5, 2003 at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, CA. Representatives of McDonald's, Starbucks and other companies will be on hand for a panel called Branding & Marketing Hotspot Services.

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