Suddenly Britain seems awash with WiFi. McDonald’s is to now offer free WiFi to customers in 1,200 of its UK outlets, in an attempt to lure customers away from rival food chains and coffee shops like Starbucks. In theory their free offer could save someone £260 a year, if they used paid-for WiFi for an hour a week (says McDonald’s).
The Cloud will provide the network, which is ironic since it recently struck a deal with mobile phone carrier O2 to provide WiFi for Apple iPhones as part of a customer’s contract. But that will cost them between £35-£55 a month for voice and data use. And last week BT took a stake in Spanish WiFi startup FON to allow its three million Total Broadband customers to roam across each-other’s hotspots and those of FON partners abroad.
However, before you jump to the conclusion that the UK will be full of people Skypeing and iPhoning their way across the country, consider this.
If McDonald’s users are required to log in with a full-blown browser they probably won’t be able to use their WiFi-enabled mobiles (assuming any McDonald’s customer actually owns a WiFi handset, of course). Which leaves you with the prospect of opening your expensive laptop in front of the McDonald’s hordes.
And don’t expect to see many iPhone or iPod Touch users in there either. The Safari browser in these devices is often locked out of these types of nodes. Time will tell when the network goes live.
Meanwhile, the prospect of using Starbucks T-Mobile WiFi network with your iPhone seems more alluring after all.