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10/28/2003
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Race For McDonald's Wi-Fi Business Heats Up

Three companies are battling to be selected when the fast-food chain picks a provider or providers for a broad rollout of its wireless service.

Three Wi-Fi service providers creating hot spots for McDonald's restaurants are racing to a finish line early next year when McDonald's will pick a provider--or providers--for a broad rollout of the wireless service.

The three finalists are Cometa Networks, which recently opened 50 locations at McDonald's in the Seattle area; Toshiba's Computer Systems Group, which is opening 100 hot spots in McDonald's restaurants in the Chicago and Milwaukee areas; and Wayport, which has opened hot spots in 75 of the fast-food company's franchises in the San Francisco-San Jose area.

So far, all three efforts are considered trials, although all of the providers appear to be very much in the Wi-Fi game for keeps. Wayport, for instance, has more than 700 Wi-Fi locations and claims to be the market leader. The company has targeted hotel chains and airports as it spreads the hotspot technology across the United States. Toshiba's SurfHere offering is the company's major hot-spot operation to date, and Toshiba recently unveiled Wi-Fi-enabled handheld devices. The fact that Intel is backing the Toshiba effort gives the endeavor added credence. Cometa got the all-important early jump on the hot spot field in McDonald's locations in the New York metropolitan area.

McDonald's is testing hot spots in 25 countries.

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