BT Openzone wi-fi network closing to O2 customers

From 1 July customers of O2 will no longer have access to BT Openzone wi-fi hotspots around the UK, when a four-year deal between the two firms ends.

In an email to customers, O2 says its own network of more than 8,000 wi-fi hotspots will still be available in various shops and restaurant chains.

BT Openzone has five million hotspots but O2 says that only 4,200 of them were ever shared with its customers.

It means O2 will lose around one third of its current wi-fi hotspot network.

The change is the result of a four-year agreement between the two telecoms firms coming to an end on 30 June.

“From 1 July 2013, we will no longer offer access to BT Openzone wi-fi hotspots to our customers,” said O2 in a statement.

“We’ll continue to extend the reach and scale of O2 wi-fi through exciting partnerships with venues including O2 shops, restaurants, retail outlets and outdoor and indoor locations across the UK.”

The firm says it has six million wi-fi customers.

The end of the deal with BT Openzone follows disappointment for O2 in the 4G spectrum auction held in February, Kester Mann, senior analyst at CCS Insight, told the BBC.

“The reduction in the number of hotspots is a blow to O2 customers,” he said.

“At the recent 4G auction, O2 failed to secure frequencies at 2.6GHz. This may mean that it will struggle to meet the growing data-needs of its customers, particularly in high-density areas.

“A focus on alternative technologies such as wi-fi may have given the operator the opportunity to address this potential shortfall,” Mr Mann added.

“This is particularly important given that its 4G licence mandates a minimum indoor coverage requirement of 98% of the UK population by the end of 2017.”

[VIa BBC News}

Manchester to launch free city centre wi-fi network

People wanting to use the internet in Manchester city centre can now do so free of charge from Friday.

A new free public wi-fi network is being set up across the city, backed by Manchester City Council and Transport for Greater Manchester (TFGM).

The _FreebeeMcr network, run by media services firm Arqiva, will be launched in three phases.

The first phase, covering St Peter’s Square, Albert Square and Cross Street, has been launched.

The second phase, to follow in the spring, will take in transport hubs and stops along key routes used by train, bus and Metrolink passengers.

‘Leading digital city’

The final stage, expected to be launched in the summer, will extend services to other areas of the city with a high footfall such as district shopping centres.

A council spokesman said the service comes at no cost to the taxpayer.

It will offer up to 30 minutes of internet access and offer unlimited access to public sector websites such as the Manchester council website.

Nigel Murphy, executive member for environment at Manchester City Council, said: “Providing improved internet access for Manchester residents, businesses and visitors promotes social inclusion and economic growth.

“We want to ensure that Manchester residents and visitors get the most out of the city and giving them free wi-fi access will mean they have a wealth of information and services at their fingertips.

“This will make another important contribution towards our goal of ensuring that Manchester is one of the world’s leading digital cities.”

[Via BBC News]