O2 launching free-for-all public Wi-Fi hotspot network

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o2_logo_3.jpgNow here’s a story that just sounds too good to be true. O2 are preparing to launch a nationwide public Wi-fi network that will be free to use for EVERYONE, not just those who have contracts with the telecommunications firm.

The plan is to have the network up and running by 2013, replacing their Cloud hotspots and doubling “the number of premium hotspots currently offered by BT Openzone and The Cloud combined”.

Shops, restuarants, and retail centres are likely to be the areas to get access, as well as places of public interest and attractions. The sign up is promised to be simple for all users, particularly those on O2 contracts who will have the sign-in process carried out automatically for them.

“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 per cent 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.”

Surely there must be a catch? Perhaps something to do with Sky’s recent move towards nabbing the Cloud? We’ll keep you posted on the development of the network as we find out more.

Gerald Lynch