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Networking

Cometa has slight burp in McDonald's test

Cometa Networks has lost AT&T as its service provider for a hot-spot test with McDonald's in New York City, but prospects may be heating up on the other coast for the Wi-Fi company.

Cometa Networks has lost AT&T as its service provider for a hot-spot test with McDonald's in New York City, but prospects may be heating up on the other coast for the Wi-Fi company.

AT&T sent out an e-mail to hot-spot subscribers late last month indicating that it would no longer offer the wireless service in New York. As a partner of Cometa, it billed its customers for the Wi-Fi service and supported software that allowed them to log on to Cometa's network. Hot spots are public areas where Wi-Fi devices can wirelessly access a network and use resources, such as a broadband connection, available on that network.


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The two companies were working together in a test program for McDonald's. The fast-food chain is in the process of determining which hot-spot suppliers it will use in its restaurants. Wayport and Toshiba's SurfHere are competing in the test program.

Representatives said AT&T will end the service because it was "not a business model it wanted to pursue...It was no longer appropriate." Though they would not comment further, they said the carrier will look for other opportunities to attract consumer business, but will focus its hot-spot efforts on the corporate market.

Cometa said it was expecting the move. Its McDonald's test is over, and the fast-food chain is in the process of picking its suppliers, according to Jeff Damir, a senior vice president of sales at Cometa. If McDonald's chooses Cometa, the start-up has other service providers that it can use to fill AT&T's role, he said. In the meantime, Cometa is offering the hot-spot service to existing subscribers until McDonald's makes its decision.

This year, AT&T plans to double the number of hot spots it makes available to business subscribers. Representatives said the company has 2,900 hot spots in 22 countries.

Cometa has seen promising results with its efforts in Seattle, according to Damir. The company is working with two undisclosed wireless service providers and has seen a higher-than-expected number of monthly subscribers, as opposed to daily subscribers. Damir attributes this surprising showing to the monthly service fee of $11.95 for unlimited data that Cometa's service providers set. Other hot-spot service providers charge more than twice that for unlimited monthly service.

Damir added that the low service fee arises from Cometa's ability to cost effectively offer hot-spot service on a large scale.