McDonald's announce free Wi-Fi

McDonald's have announced the roll-out of free wireless Internet across almost all of its UK restaurants. This move will make McDonald's the biggest provider of free wireless Internet access in the UK, which is largely dominated by pay-as-you-go or contracted services.

The free service will be operated by network provider The Cloud and will be rolled out across the majority of restaurants by the end of this year. Owen Geddes, Director of Business Development at The Cloud said: "It's great to see McDonald's taking such a visionary stance and bringing Wi-Fi to the mass market in this way."

Steve Easterbrook, President and CEO of McDonald's (UK) said: "We hope that this will be a breath of fresh air and give greater choice for Wi-Fi hotspot users who have had little choice but to pay by the month or hour to access the Internet on the move."

Whether a fan of their food or not, this is certainly good news for anybody who wants to use their Wi-Fi enabled devices while on the move. It's rarely a challenge to track down the local McDonald's restaurant; I for one won't mind the cheap coffee if it means I can ‘log-on' for free.

This is the second story I've noticed this week in which customers are being offered free or ‘almost' free Wi-Fi (see BT Broadband's alliance with FON). Will we see this as a rising trend? While some businesses are able to offer such services to customers, how are some of the more traditional hotspot providers going to adapt? The availability of free Wi-Fi makes mobile VoIP calling (such as with Skype) a more realistic option for consumers in urban areas and, as coverage expands, could pose a threat to mobile phone providers through reduced traffic on subscription hotspots and 3G/GPRS.