FREE WiFi FAQs
McDonald’s offering Free Wireless Internet, really? Are you sure?
Yes, it is official and if you don’t believe it drop by one of the live stores listed here and check it out for yourself. No coupon, no special code, you don’t have to buy something, just turn on your WiFi interface, open a browser and you will be redirected to a splash page with some Terms and Conditions, read them (of course you will) and check the box to agree and you are on the net. That simple!
Free WiFi, what is it and Wi the Fi would I care?
WiFi or Wireless LAN is your ticket to getting onto the Internet in the McDonald’s stores without having to plug in your laptop or mobile device. Radio transmissions allow you to connect to a broadband Internet service in each store. If you are new to this whole wireless thing, check out our Wireless Tutorial for a quick overview of what it is all about.
What do I need to connect to the McDonald’s Free WiFi?
Your laptop or mobile device needs to support 802.11 b/g Wireless LAN to connect to the network. Most modern laptops these days come with WiFi chips built in. If you have a Windows laptop, look for the Intel Centrino logo on your machine near the keyboard.
Most Apple Mac mobile devices purchased in the last 3 years have Airport wireless chips built in. Many current mobile phones or smart phones have WiFi built in as well. For example, the Apple iPhone or iPod Touch are great examples of WiFi enabled devices. If you are not sure, check with your retailer where you purchased the phone or laptop and they should be able to confirm if WiFi is supported. If your laptop doesn’t support WiFi natively, there are many PC Card and USB wireless options your retailer can offer you to take advantage of the McDonald’s FREE WiFi.
Is there a time limit on how long I can stay connected to the Free WiFi at McDonald's?
Currently McDonald’s are not enforcing a time restriction on your session connected to the Free WiFi network. That being said, there is a distinct lack of power outlets in the public areas of the stores so battery life could be the ultimate time limiter (unless you have an antenna pointed over the back fence of course).
Is there a download limit on how much data I can suck down whilst using McDonald’s Free WiFi?
There is a 50Mb per session download restriction at the moment. This is clearly displayed on the redirect page that is presented after you accept the T&Cs and counts down your remaining allowance so you can keep an eye on it. It is counting both uploads and downloads from the testing we have done. If the roll-out hasn't reached your local store yet and you haven’t checked out the splash pages, a sneak preview of the available here on our User Experience page.
What happens if I leave my laptop idle whilst I am enjoying my Rainforest Alliance coffee?
There is an idle timer currently set for 20 mins 10 mins so don’t enjoy that coffee for too long. Although it is not too much of a burden to simply accept the T&Cs again to get reconnected.
Is Free WiFi coming to my local McDonald’s store?
The official roll-out is scheduled to begin the week starting 3rd November 2008. The entire 700+ participating stores are planned to be converted by March 2009. The following rough overview of when States are coming online has been published:
• NSW/ACT - completed
• VIC/TAS - completed
• QLD/NT - completed
• SA/WA - completed
From 3rd of November 2008 40 new stores a week will be converted to the Free WiFi model.
The list of current live sites is available here and will be updated daily as the rollout continues.
Is the Free WiFi coming to all the McDonald’s stores or only the stand alone restaurants and not the ones in the shopping centre food courts?
The Free WiFi service will be available in both stand alone and food court based McDonald’s where the current Telstra “pay for use” wireless service is deployed. That is locations where the Telstra BigPond wireless service (broadcast with a network name (SSID) of “Telstra”) will be converted to the Free WiFi service. There are some food courts where the Shopping Centre Management wouldn’t permit the installation of the Telstra service due to their own wireless plans and these will most likely still be excluded. So if your local McDonald’s is in one of these food courts then its time to go and hassle Centre Management.
Will McDonald’s be adding annoying advertising to the Free WiFi Hotspots?
The Free WiFi is free of any forced advertising. You don’t need to watch any videos to get access, just agree to some Terms and Conditions and you are on the net. If you are interested in what is in their Terms and Conditions, check out the copy of them here.
Are McDonald's blocking any websites I can access on the Free WiFi Hotspots?
McDonald's are offering Free Wireless Broadband Internet access as a "Family Friendly" service and therefore, there is some sophisticated content filtering going on in the back end to ensure little Johnny's soccer team doesn't see anything too dodgy over someone's shoulder.
Are McDonald's blocking peer to peer applications like Bit Torrent etc?
As per the McDonald's Terms & Conditions they are preventing the use of this type of application in an attempt to provide "fair" access to the available Internet access for everyone.
Will my corporate VPN work over the McDonald's Free WiFi?
Well this is a tough one as there are so many different VPN clients out there now. The major protocols used for VPN these days are IPSec, PPTP and SSL.
As with most ISPs the Internet access delivered for McDonald's is passed through a Network Address Translation (NAT) process that essentially converts the IP Address allocated to your mobile device in the store to a public routable address on the Internet. This NAT process can play havoc with VPN traffic such as IPSec and NAT Traversal methods have been introduced by many VPN vendors to get around this issue. NAT Traversal basically encapsulates your IPSec traffic within either UDP or TCP packets which pass through the NAT process without any hassles.
The following VPN types have been tested so far and are working:
- Cisco IPSec VPN Client (with NAT Traversal)
- Nortel Contivity Client
More testing will be happening over the coming weeks and we will keep this list updated with the results.
Can I access my email from the Free WiFi Hotspots?
Like most Hotspots, users typically access email via a WebMail interface to their mail server and the McDonald's Free WiFi supports common web based mail services such as gmail, hotmail, yahoo etc.
For Corporate users, typically the VPNs discussed above will be used to securely connect back to their office and they will access email over the VPN.
That being said McDonald's have permitted some basic email access directly from your correctly configured mail client. The supported mail protocols are as follows:
- POP3 over SSL (POP3S)
- IMAP over SSL (IMAPS)
- SMTP over SSL (ports 465 & 587)
Native SMTP on port 25 has been specifically excluded to prevent the Free WiFi network from a Spam source by only permitting outbound mail on Authenticated SMTP destinations.
If you are having issues configuring these mail settings, we suggest using Webmail as this will always work regardless of these mail restrictions.
How do I find out more info on setting up Secure SMTP to use in the FREE WiFi hotspots?
This is a topic worthy of its own FAQ page so we have created one - click here to find out more about Secure SMTP and how you might be able to use it with your mail provider.
Can I hang out with my gaming buddies in the store and play games over the WiFi network?
The in-store wireless is setup to prevent this sort of peer to peer traffic between wireless devices in the store. Your wireless traffic is pushed towards the McDonald's branded splash pages shown here.
Will my favourite messenger client work in the FREE WiFi hotspots?
Currently MSN, iChat and Skype messenger clients have been tested to work but only for the chat session functionality. Additional features such as peer to peer file transfers are not permitted as per the McDonald's Terms & Conditions. If you have another favourite messenger client you would like to see permitted on the FREE WiFi Hotspots, let us know on our Feedback Page.