Want Wi-Fi with That?

Wayport is supersizing its Wi-Fi deal with McDonald's to appeal to the appetites of integrators and service providers, as well as to restaurant customers. In doing so, it may just succeed where Cometa and others have failed.

Before Wayport had much time to glory in its April win of a bid to unwire McDonalds restaurants, one of its key competitors went belly-up.

Immediately, it seemed, pundits and analysts everywhere were asking whether the retail model for Wi-Fi hot spots—the one that suggests wireless connectivity will attract new customers to a venue—had any promise at all.

Cometa Networks Inc., a wholesaler of hot-spot infrastructure services, announced last week that it is suspending operations, just as MobileStar Network Corp., Joltage Networks Inc., hereUare Communications Inc., Aerozone and others with similar ambitions had done before it.

Cometa, along with Toshiba, had been vying with Wayport Inc. for the McDonalds Corp. deployment.

/zimages/7/28571.gifClick here to read about how Cometa hot spots are being used in the wake of the companys demise.

For Wayport, McDonalds is a new kind of gig. The company has built a successful presence in the travel and hospitality sector, providing hot-spot services to mobile professionals—the people most likely to use them—in more than 800 hotels, a dozen airports and 16 Laptop Lane business service centers.

So, why on earth is it fooling around with retail? Does it really expect to make money in an environment where laptops share tables with special sauce, Cherry Cokes and sticky fingers?

/zimages/7/28571.gifClick here for a look at one writers experience at a McDonalds hot spot.

Obviously, the answer is yes. Wayport would not have pursued the business if it didnt want it—and it wanted it very much.

The reason why became obvious yesterday when Wayport introduced Wi-Fi World, a whole new business model—designed around its partnership with McDonalds—that it plans to use to turn the Wi-Fi retail sector into fertile territory.

Next page: What exactly is Wi-Fi World?