Wi-Fi access in the UK is complicated to say the least. With BT Openzone and The Cloud access can be hit-and-miss and when you do log on, you have to pay for it. Well O2 has now announced it is planning on challenging these two providers – and doing it all for free.
O2 has announced the creation of “seamless, fast and free internet for all” with a network of premium Wi-Fi hotspots set to double the amount currently available by BT and The Cloud combined. Initially O2 Wifi will be available when it replaces it existing 450 Cloud hotspots in its stores and offices. The plan is to then extend the coverage “through partnerships with strategic venues, to include shops, restaurants, retail outlets and outdoor and indoor locations across the UK.”
Access to O2 Wifi will be free for O2 and non-O2 customers. O2 customers who own a Wi-Fi enabled device will be automatically signed up to the service by the end of the year with all others having to go through a signing-up process. While the service will be free, of course O2 and its partners will want something back in return, and every time you log on you will be greeted by a splash page with offers and advertising from O2 and its partners – be it a restaurant or shop. While this could get annoying, considering you are getting free access we are sure people won’t mind too much.
O2 is shying away from the route taken by BT, whereby it uses its own customers’ broadband service to create a huge wireless network around the country. Instead it says that all of its hotspots will be “premium public hotspots.” Virgin has indicated plans to roll out its own wireless network but again not using its home customers’ service.
“Only 20% of people who have access to free public Wi-Fi on O2 tariffs actively use it despite the majority of devices being Wi-Fi enabled. We know that Wi-Fi as a technology has great potential and can be a very fast service, however customers are discouraged by barriers which include complexity in activation, uncertainty of where Wi-Fi is free and the variable quality of the current experience,” said O2’s New Business Development Director Tim Sefton.