Only a handful of Muni-Fi projects ended in anything greater than eternal tears here in the States, but hopefully O2's up for the challenge across the pond. The UK carrier just announced its intentions to "refine the WiFi landscape" in its home nation by launching O2 WiFi, with a raft of "premium hotspots" to be rolled out and managed by key venue owners. As of now, it's hard to pinpoint who exactly will begin hosting O2's routers, but the key part is this: they'll be open for all customers to access for free, no matter which mobile or broadband provider they are with. Making no bones about who it's coming after, the operator has affirmed its intentions to "at least double the number of premium hotspots currently offered by BT Openzone and The Cloud combined by 2013," with the rollout to begin as early as today and continue for as long as it takes. 'Course, doubling up The Cloud may take a little more work given that Sky just picked it up for an undisclosed sum, but hey, we're sure every Briton in existence would just love to see these two duke it out for WiFi supremacy.
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O2 redefines Wi-Fi landscape with launch of O2 Wifi

26 Jan 2011 00:01

O2 outlines plans to offer seamless, fast and free internet for all, in venues across the country


O2 today announces its plans to deploy a market-changing public Wi-Fi platform in the UK, with the launch of O2 Wifi. O2's premium hotspots will be managed through partnerships with key venue owners and will be open for all customers to access for free, no matter which mobile or broadband provider they are with.

O2 is aiming to create a scaled Wi-Fi platform that will be 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. It will continue to extend the reach and scale of O2 Wifi through partnerships with strategic venues, to include shops, restaurants, retail outlets and outdoor and indoor locations across the UK.

The O2 Wifi service will address the many shortcomings of current public Wi-Fi offerings by being genuinely free to customers, simple, fast and secure. O2's mobile expertise and insight, allied with an enhanced quality of network connectivity and strong venue partnerships will now deliver a significantly enhanced user experience. O2 Wifi will introduce a new level of customer engagement, driving increased value for both the Wi-Fi hosting venue and the user by bringing together O2 Wifi with the capabilities of O2 Media and O2 Money to offer the potential to deliver relevant timely content that customers want in a format that suits them.

Access to the hotspots will be through a simple sign-up process and will be free to both O2 and non-O2 mobile customers, providing seamless connectivity to a high quality network. 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.

O2 has long been a market-leader in provision of public Wi-Fi services across mobile devices, introducing unlimited Wi-Fi access included in iPhone tariffs over three years ago. Through O2's partnerships with BT Openzone and The Cloud, adoption and growth of Wi-Fi services has been significant with customers seeing real usage benefits.

O2's New 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."

In addition, O2 is increasing investment in its mobile network by 25% in 2011. These investments will allow O2 to offer customers access to a suite of layered technologies, including 2G, EDGE, 3G, 4G, HSPA+ and Wi-Fi, seamlessly, simply and at speed. These technologies will enable customers to access a new range of 'smarter' services and experiences.

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O2 plans free and open WiFi network across the UK, Sky picks up The Cloud