Mike Sullivan reports from the clean streets of Manhattan: Mike wandered around a bunch of Cometa's hot spots in McDonald's around Manhattan and agreed to let me share his report:
I had an afternoon off today in Manhattan, so I took the opportunity to scope out three of the new McDonald's Wi-Fi locations in Midtown, each of them along 42nd Street. My client system was my trusty Apple iBook 500Mhz, a notebook known for its excellent Wi-Fi signal reception. Here's what I found:
220 W. 42nd Street - One of the busiest McDonald's locations in the world. Signal strength in the second-floor seating area was 4 bars (best possible) and held strong. Browser login seems overly complicated, with the user getting presented with four screens and a checkbox user agreement before getting the message that you are connected to the Internet. But I had intermittent success loading popular sites: Slashdot loaded fine; Apple.com did not. My Yahoo! loaded fine, your Wi-Fi site did not; NYC's MTA site would not load; McDonalds.com did. POP3 mail came and went just fine, and Apple iChat was able to get connected and worked fine. No idea why some of the sites did not load, but I found this to be a consistent issue at all four locations I visited. This location has video projectors showing promotional videos on the walls of the seating area promoting the Centrino/Wireless functionality.
1109 6th Avenue - Signal strength 3 bars in the center of the seating area. Same problems loading the same sites mentioned above. iChat and Mail worked fine.
18 E. 42nd (5th Ave.) - Signal strength only one or two bars in the front (street side) of the 2nd level seating area. Same site loading problems as above. iChat and Mail worked fine. I guess McDonald's 'Centrino-certified' signal coverage isn't as solid as one might hope.
For comparison, I stopped at a table in Bryant Park, along the 42nd Street side, and got an immediate 4 bars of signal strength, a quick login after just one screen of info and the user agreement, and perfect functionality with all apps. The signal and service from this free, non-commercial hotspot (BryantPark.org / NYCWireless.net) was better and easier than any of the McD Wireless sites.
So, I'd say Cometa/AT&T/McD has some work to do to make the experience easier and more technically smooth for users. But the mere fact that they are up and running, even with some glitches, bodes well for the future of near-ubiquitous Wi-Fi service in Manhattan.
Thanks for the report, Mike!