O2 has announced a free public WiFi service for the UK. It’s called O2 Wifi and will be available to O2 and non-O2 mobile customers after a simple sign-up process. This sign-up is expected to be automatic for O2 customers on their WiFi devices by the end of the year.
The first step will involve replacing the 450 existing hotspots operated by ‘The Cloud’ in O2’s own buildings. By 2013, O2 aims to have double the number of premium hotspots currently offered by BT Openzone and The Cloud, which will give it over 15,000 WiFi locations.
Unlike the current BT FON service, these new hotspots won’t use residential connections but will be designed for public use.
Tim Sefton, O2’s New Business Development Director, 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.”