RealTime IT News

Want Broadband With Your Fries?

Now this is super-sizing your experience at McDonalds: for roughly $13 a month, Tokyo regulars at the neighborhood restaurant can connect their laptops to a wireless broadband connection beginning this month, letting them eat and surf at the same time.

The deal, brokered by investment company cum broadband provider Softbank and the Japanese division of McDonald's Tuesday, is the first of its kind for the international food giant and part of the other's plans for fixed wireless (Wi-Fi) throughout the "Land of the Rising Sun."

Officials at Japan's "Mickey Ds" plan on enabling nearly 4,000 restaurants in the coming year or so, though the build-out will be "gradual." Ultimately, the company plans on incorporating voice-over-IP (VOIP) and ordering Big Mac's online as part of the monthly service.

Putting public-access hotspots throughout Tokyo is an ambitious, if expensive, way to make money as an Internet service provider (ISP). Not only does the company need to establish a T-1 (or higher) connection to the premises through the local telephone company, ancillary costs like the price of a Wi-Fi access point enter the equation.

But the rewards are enough to justify a front-end investment, according to research by Cahner's Instat. Analysts predict the wireless public access market to pick up considerably in the coming years, culminating in revenues of $224 million in 2005.

Amy Cravens, Instat industry analyst, said providers are almost specifically corporations looking to meet the needs of business travelers. As such, these wireless local area network (WLAN) providers need to incorporate business-essential tools like virtual private networks (VPNs) to be more successful in generating new customers.

"Service providers and hardware manufacturers in this space are intently focused on enabling those applications that are most demanded by business travelers and ensuring a level of network security appropriate for the confidential corporate content that will flow over them," she said.

In the U.S., hotspots are popping up more and more on the American landscape, following the pattern Cravens describes. Wi-Fi spots can be found in airports, hotels and even the local Starbucks in some cases, as providers look to put a wireless broadband connection at every stop in a business person's itinerary.