December 16, 2009

McDonald’s To Offer Free Wi-Fi At Most Locations

McDonald's restaurants are set to become the largest providers of free Wi-Fi access in the country after announcing they will remove the fee for Internet access in franchise stores nationwide, Dallas News reported.

David Groom, chief information officer for McDonald's USA, said starting in mid-January, some 11,000 of the more than 13,000 U.S. locations will offer free Wi-Fi under an arrangement with Dallas-based AT&T Inc.

A spokeswoman for McDonald's said about 200 of the 300 McDonald's restaurants in Dallas-Fort Worth have Wi-Fi access.

Groom said they were excited about the decision, as customers have asked for free wi-fi for some time now.

"This is one thing they've consistently asked for. It's just another reason to come to McDonald's." he said.

Visitors to the restaurants will not have to buy anything to use the service, Groom said.

While McDonald's did not reveal specifics of its deal with AT&T and would not explain how either party would avoid losing money, Groom said research showed consumers would spend more on food and drink if they did not have to pay to surf the Web.

Laptop and smart-phone users are likely to be drawn even more to McDonald's restaurants, where they had been paying $2.95 for two hours of access.

Customers of AT&T already had free access to its public Wi-Fi hotspots at McDonald's, Starbucks and elsewhere. And the use of those Wi-Fi outlets is soaring.

"So far this year, there have been more than 51 million user connections at those hotspots, more than double the number of customer connections in all of 2008," said AT&T spokeswoman Sarah Andreani.

AT&T is not releasing details of its financial arrangement with McDonald's, Andreani said.

The U.S. has far more public Wi-Fi connections than any other country and a much greater share of those are free. Smart phones like the iPhone have surpassed connections from laptops over recent months.

There were 67,837 public hotspots in the U.S. as of Sept. 30. China came in second, with 34,931, although the numbers are growing much faster there, according to wireless online advertising company JiWire.

JiWire also said 35 percent of public hotspots in the U.S. are free, compared to 19.5 percent worldwide.

"AT&T and McDonald's got together and gave a value to consumers. This is a value proposition for both of our customer groups. This is just a natural fit," Groom said.


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