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UK ISP O2 to Launch FREE Broadband Wireless WiFi Hotspots

Posted: 26th Jan, 2011 By: MarkJ
o2 uk mobile broadband logoMobile operator and ISP O2 UK has today revealed that it intends to build its own FREE public Wi-Fi (Wireless Broadband) Hotspots ('O2 Wifi'). This service will be open for all customers to access for free, no matter which mobile or broadband ISP they use.

At present O2 already bundles an "Unlimited Wi-Fi" service with its Mobile Broadband deals, which gives customers access to over 7,500 hotspots in the UK with The Cloud and BT Openzone. O2 is now aiming to create its own network by 2013, which will contain "at least double the number of premium hotspots" offered via BT and The Cloud.

The move follows news that BSkyB ( Sky Broadband ) is planning to enter the UK Wi-Fi Hotspot market (here), which would allow them to compete directly with rival Wi-Fi bundles, by acquiring The Cloud. As a result O2 will begin rollout immediately by replacing its existing 450 Cloud hotspots in its retail and office estate.

O2 further plans to extend the reach and scale of its 'O2 Wifi' service through partnerships with strategic venues, including shops, restaurants, retail outlets and outdoor / indoor locations across the UK.

O2's Business Development Director, Tim Sefton, said:

"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.

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.

O2 is integrating new layers of technology into the existing network to enable a seamless and sustained customer experience. We are technology-agnostic and driven entirely by our customers’ needs. We believe that services should be delivered in the best possible way, across multiple networks, supported by different technologies."

Access to the hotspots will be through a simple sign-up process and will be free to both O2 and non-O2 mobile customers. The sign up process will be auto provisioned for all O2 customers with Wi-Fi devices by the end of the year. All hotspots will be premium public hotspots, as opposed to using residential connections with limited bandwidth.

The move makes sense, especially in light of similar developments by Virgin Media last year and the recent BSkyB ( Sky Broadband ) rumours. It will also help the operator to off-set its Mobile Broadband data usage. However we won't believe the "free" claims until we see it.

In addition, O2 claims to be increasing investment in its mobile network by 25% this year. The new cash will help O2 to both develop its new Wi-Fi network and enhance its existing Mobile Broadband platform with faster HSPA+ and 4G ( LTE ) technologies.
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