Tuesday, January 18, 2011

O2 Plans Free Wi-Fi Service Across UK

Telefónica O2 UK unveiled plans for a "market-changing," free, public Wi-Fi network across UK. O2 Wifi will operate a series of premium hotspots managed through partnerships with key venue owners.

O2 said its aims to at least double the number of premium hotspots currently offered by BT Openzone and The Cloud combined by 2013. It will begin rollout immediately by replacing its existing 450 Cloud hotspots in its retail and office estate.

Access to the hotspots will be free to both O2 and non-O2 mobile customers. All hotspots will be premium public hotspots, as opposed to using residential connections with limited bandwidth.

In addition, O2 announced plans to increase investment in its mobile network by 25% in 2011.

"Building networks is a core capability. We have pioneered the explosion of mobile data over the last three years and know better than anyone where people are accessing data. O2 Wifi hotspots will bring high quality public Wi-fi access to the majority of mobile users," said O2's New Business Development Director Tim Sefton. "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.

The announcement comes as BSkyB reportedly is negotiating to acquire The Cloud. This deal would provide Sky's 2.8 million fixed line broadband customers with access to The Cloud's European network of 22,000 hotspots.http://www.o2.co.uk/