O2 offers free Wi-Fi for all

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O2 is to launch a new “market changing” Wi-Fi business to offer free internet  to customers of all networks through selected partners

O2 has created a new standalone business, O2 Wi-Fi, which will offer free Wi-Fi services to customers on all networks in selected business areas across the UK.

The operator said it will establish partnerships with multiple UK retailers and restaurants who will use Wi-Fi hotspots to target customers with promotions and  offers in addition to offering “fast” access data services on their device.

It said the O2 Wi-Fi needed to be available customers on all networks to be viable for partners and described it as the the next step in Wi-Fi evolution.

O2 will roll out more than 15,000 Wi-Fi hotspots across the UK by 2013, double the current number offered by BT Openzone and the Cloud combined. O2 will begin the roll out across its 450 retail stores in February.

Customers can access the Wi-Fi through their enabled device after a one-off sign in.

Newly appointed O2 Wi-Fi managing director Gavin Franks described the current Wi-Fi hotspot market as “stagnant” and the time to strike is now as businesses are looking to use Wi-Fi to attract customers and the number of smartphones has exploded.

Franks said: “This is an entirely new business unit, a standalone business within the organisation, and not just another service being put out there. What we are doing will transform the market in terms of Wi-Fi.”

O2 business development director Tim Sefton added: “We have pioneered the explosion of mobile data over the last three years and know better than anyone where people are accessing data. O2 Wi-Fi hotspots will bring high quality public Wi-Fi access to the majority of mobile users.

“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 Wi-Fi as a technology has great potential and can be a very fast service.”