Wayport operates McDonald's Wi-Fi service in a unique arrangement: iPass will now resell access to its mobile corporate customers to the 7,500 unwired McDonald's locations in the U.S. that Wayport services. iPass offers typically metered access to Wi-Fi, dial-up, and other broadband that contrasts with subscription-based, per-user services.
Wayport's unique deal at McDonald's is that, at least until now, they have sold access to the entire chain on a fixed monthly fee basis as part of their Wi-Fi World arrangement announced in May 2004. In most aggregation and resale agreements, payments are made on a per-session basis from the aggregator, like iPass or Boingo, to the operator, like Wayport or iBahn or Surf and Sip.
I thought that Wi-Fi World had enormous potential when announced because it meant that companies with large consumer customer bases that wanted to add Wi-Fi--such as a cable operator--could pay a predictable amount to gain unlimited access for its millions or tens of millions of users. They could then resell this at a ridiculously low rate.
As it turns out, the uptake has been smaller than I expected, but I think Wayport still comes out way ahead. McDonald's pays Wayport for in-store services, including data access. AT&T came onboard as a partner right away, and provides data services and is a customer of the offering, providing McDonald's and other Wi-Fi World locations and AT&T-run locations to its FreedomLink customers at $1.99 a month (for DSL subscribers). Nintendo became a partner, allowing its DS gamers to use McDonald's locations for free to network with other players.
The financial terms of the iPass deal weren't disclosed, but I expect it fits closer to iPass's model of metered service, in which a negotiated rate is charged to iPass, which marks it up to its customers. That rate is typically far below the walk-up rate for the same locations, usually because only dayrates are available and iPass in many cases has lower-time-unit rates for its members.
iPass now claims 70,000 Wi-Fi locations in its aggregated network worldwide, out of what is estimated to be 130,000 locations.
Wayport has three models for hotspots at the moment: They directly contract with venues for under 1,000 locations that they resell on a per-session basis or through walk-up purchases; their McDonald's deal is a direct contract in which they service McDonald's and resell access on a network-wide fixed basis; and they work as a managed services company for AT&T, operating thousands of UPS Store and other locations in the FreedomLink network under the AT&T name.