It’s interesting that news of an as-yet-unofficial takeover bid by BSkyB of wi-fi operator The Cloud would come to us via the medium of The Sunday Times, which is of course owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News International, the UK subsidiary of Murdoch's News Corporation, which holds a controlling minority stake in BSkyB. All very incestuous it seems.
Despite the strange route the news took to emerge, it appears as if we can take it for granted there is a high possibility of it being true since we doubt the journalist would risk his pension on a story without anything to back it up. The takeover of The Cloud would be a move that would directly challenge BT and its Openzone wi-fi operation. BT currently boasts 2 million hotspots throughout the UK, though the vast majority of these come via its home broadband customers turning their supply into a publicly available wireless access point – many of which can be unreliable.
The takeover by BSkyB could see something similar happen with The Cloud network as BSkyB’s broadband customers could be used in the same way to create a similar network in direct competition to BT’s. Of course BSkyB customers would then benefit from the added coverage when they are outside their homes and the possibility of getting even more content on their mobile phones/tablets . At the moment The Cloud has a network of 22,000 dedicated public access points throughout Europe and has been in talks with Mayor of London, Boris Johnson regarding making London one big Wi-fi hotspot in time for the London Olympics in 2012. A spokeswoman from The Cloud told us that “at this moment we have no comment to make.”
Last November we reported that Virgin was considering rolling out its own wireless network across the country however it would place wireless routers in secure public locations and connect them to the green cabinets used to power its network rather than go down the BT route of using its home customers’ supply.