Free wifi from McDonald’s nationwide

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When McDonald’s restaurants completes the roll out of its free wifi service across all its 1,200 UK restaurants later this year, it will become the country’s biggest provider of free wireless broadband internet access.

While there’s no reference to this news on any McDonald’s website – no press release, nothing – lots of media reporting provides the details.

I watched McDonald’s UK CEO Steve Easterbrook speak on Jeff Randall’s business show on Sky News on Monday night. He said you’ll be able to go into any McDonald’s and use the wifi with no obligation to even buy anything in the restaurant (although he hopes you will).

I think it’s a pretty compelling deal to drive consumers into McDonald’s. While you’re there, you’re likely to buy something.

Not only laptop-using consumers will think this is a great deal – think of the growing range of wifi-enabled mobile devices that include GSM/wifi mobile phones, Skype phones and the new iPod Touch. If you can connect to the net without a browser-based log in process, you’ll be able to use many of these devices.

Just nip into a McDonald’s and munch a Big Mac while you make some free phone calls or get some more songs from the iTunes Wifi Music Store.

It will even attract people away from Starbucks, the ubiquitous wifi access point of choice for road warriors wanting surf with their latte.

The big difference – with Starbucks, you have to pay to use their pricey T-Mobile network while internet access will be free at McDonald’s. A bit of a no-brainer choice really. (How will Starbucks respond, I wonder? More of this, perhaps?)

I rarely visit a McDonald’s when I’m out and about. If I want to go online, it’s wherever I can and always having to pay high prices.

That behaviour’s about to change.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Richard Bailey

    I thought a more interesting announcement was the proposal to use (with customers’ consent) a small amount of bandwidth from BT broadband to create a free national WiFi network. Can’t recall whether it’s free for all – or for BT broadband customers…

  2. Geoff Livingston

    It’s a brilliant marketing move on Mickie D’s behalf. Everyone’s going to be mobile and enabled, and what better way to engage customers but to give them a full experience (pun intended).

  3. neville

    More likely just for BT customers, Richard. Meanwhile, McDonald’s is here right now and nationwide by the end of the year with no strings attached.

    Geoff, I agree. Maybe they see free internet access in a similar way as Tesco sees cheap petrol: a loss leader to get more customers into the store.

    If a few more consumer outlets with a national presence saw free internet access as a commodity, just like providing power and lighting – hotel chains, for instance – then we might get a tipping point for a huge surge in possibilities for more goods and services via the net. More people doing more things, wherever and whenever they are.

    Talk about disruptive!

  4. Jerry

    Its a smart move by MacDonalds, but I don’t think it will displace me from Starbucks – the thought of trying to check my e-mail, have skype conversations etc sitting at a sticky plastic table surrounded by screaming kids and dorky teenagers… No, think I’ll stick with my Latte. Now if Whitbreads and the like rolled out an initiative like this, well, that would be a different thing altogether…

  5. Heather Yaxley

    Given that McD has also said it is going to concentrate on burgers and fries, I don’t think it will attract Starbucks’ latte crowd as much as those annoying teens who hog the Macs in the Apple store.

    I can’t actually see see too many road warriors wanting to do business amongst the the kiddie parties and teens playing games.

    But I agree entirely, that it’s about time hotels stopped seeing internet access as a profit generator.

  6. Help Desk

    We think this is a great idea and agree with your suggestion that other retailers will be obliged to follow. Wireless access is a sought after commodity and people like the word free.

    The comments above about the food and surroundings are valid but who knows, this could have a positive effect on MacDonalds, making them retract from the burger and fries scenario. If sufficient people using the facilities demand a little more peace and better food, they will supply that.

    An improvement for customers, Macdonalds itself and the NHS.

  7. Jerry

    If sufficient people using the facilities demand a little more peace and better food, they will supply that.

    I wouldn’t be too sure about that. The formula is everything to them – for instance, the banks have managed it, even the post office has managed it, but MacD still won’t suborn its formula to allow restaurant to introduce a single queue system!

  8. Phil Connolly

    Eating a Big Mac and using a laptop at the same time, mmm. Will be lovely when all the sauce and gerkhins end up over the keyboard. I’d be scared that one of the scallys that normally hang around the places would half inch my laptop. Probably be off more use to mobile phone users. Who really wants to hang around Maccy D’s for longer than the few minutes it takes to eat one of their burgers.

  9. Bill Hannam

    Just come back from 2 weeks touring in France and it was brilliant to be able to find WiFi access in some of the most obscure and out-of-the-way Maccy D’s. Didn’t need to sit inside at sticky tables, just sat outside in the sun on the benches. Now if only Britain…….

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