Free Wi-Fi at McDonalds – Amenity or Band-Aid?

As of January, the popular fast food chain McDonald’s will be providing free internet in the dining room.   This is the latest addition to AT&T’s expanding list of Wi-Fi hotspots, which include Starbucks, Barnes and Noble and others.  What is most evident here is the cellular industry’s scramble to off load some of the ever increasing amount of data that is over-saturating the 3G network.  Wi-Fi, what was once considered by the cellular industry to be inferior, obsolete and not practical is now becoming the solution to high data usages.  Anyone who owns an iPhone, Blackberry or other Smartphone, is probably (like myself) completely addicted to the idea of being constantly connected – always having access to the information that we want.  That being said, if you are like myself, you are probably beginning to get used to the dropped calls, slow data transfers and spotty service which are starting to seem quite typical of the 3G network.  And, again, if you are like me, you love when the little box comes up on your Smartphone screen signaling that you are within Wi-Fi range and therefore can hopefully download that email, video, image, etc.

It seems as though 8 or so years ago, before the iPhone and the onset of the Smartphone craze, that phone service could only get better.  The days of crackly calls, bad service areas and dropped calls were pretty much over – the cellular networks boasted coverage almost everywhere and “least dropped calls” was a popular cellular advertising phrase.  The present problem with the overloading of the 3G network seems to be a simple case of the cellular industry not able to fill their own shoes.  There is no doubt that Wi-Fi has become not only a necessity for anyone who wishes to access the Internet in a timely manner while on-th-go, but savior for the cellular industry.  With the addition of new services, such as Spot On Network’s Cell-Fi Smartphone users can use their phones over Wi-Fi to make calls, transfer data, etc.  Wi-Fi is no longer about sitting down at a table in McDonald’s with your laptop, Wi-Fi is now about data transfer over your computer or Smartphone, making calls and saving money.  Wi-Fi may be a present day band-aid for the cellular network’s data issue or it may be their worst nightmare.

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