BT has a deal with McDonalds to put Wi-Fi access in 500 fast food joints across the UK over the next few months. With this deal, announced at McDonalds in the Strand, BT makes a big step towards its aim to go from 1700 to 4000 public hotspots this year. The company has also slashed the cost for companies putting a BT Openzone in their business premises.

Despite McDonalds' image - a miserable place where the only people that linger are divorced dads waiting to hand their children back - the deal is apparently aimed at professionals. Most of the sites will be drive through restaurants, which are more often used by business travellers, said BT.

"These sites will help provide easily accessible locations where the large number of people who haven't yet tried Wi-Fi can log on for free and try before they buy during Wireless Broadband Week this month," said Steve Andrews, BT's managing director for products and services. This comment implies that at least some McDonalds will be online in the next three weeks. In the week of 26 January, BT is offering customers free access.

To encourage new users, BT has also introduced a pay-as-you-go option, costing 20p per minute, alongside the monthly fee scheme.

Perhaps of more interest to IT managers, BT's Openzone-in-a-box, which puts an Openzone hotspot in a company office, has had its price slashed from £399 to £250. The product lets users take an off-the-shelf hotspot, install it, and offer access to Openzone users - with pre-paid vouchers to visitors to their sites.

BT's roll-out should keep it in the top league of hotspot owners, although T-Mobile's continued programme of acquisitions looks like a bid to keep the number one spot.

In the US, McDonalds sites have had hotspots for some months, with the food giant itself selling the access, at $4.95 per hour, through arrangements with providers. Amusingly enough, owing to a typo, some sites appear to have added a "hotpot" to the already appetising McDonald's menu. We will just have to wait and see if that appears in McDonalds' Lancashire outlets.