O2 launches free WiFi service

UK mobile telecommunications provider O2 has entered the UK public wireless Internet market (WiFi) and is currently offering free wireless internet access to the public, according to The Guardian, regardless of whether they are customers or not.

Gavin Franks, the managing director of O2 WiFi, added: "We're very excited about this. It's win, win, win. Win for the end user because of its ease of use, win for the venue, and a win for us," he said.

"You wouldn't get many people saying that WiFi is where it needs to be at the moment. We believe the market is changing, and that it's been stagnant over the last three years. Big players have had a massive interest in mobile data, but we're taking that to the next level."

O2, which is owned by the Spanish telecommunications giant Telefonica, plans to deliver the service through a series of partnerships with retailers and eateries in a similar manner as rival service The Cloud has done with companies like McDonalds.

Wireless operators have struggled to cope in recent years with increasing demands being placed on their networks as users' usage patterns on even mobile devices have become more bandwidth intensive. Other providers such as Sky and Virgin Media are expected to get in on the act as well as they gear up for partnerships and launches of their own.

WiFi has not achieved the critical mass in the UK as it has with their North American counterparts mainly due to the poor availability of networks outside of designated areas. Technologies such as WiMax, which would have delivered broader WiFi, have never really gained traction. People have instead opted for data to be delivered over 3G networks which provides a much more reliable, albeit slower, service than WiFi. This has put massive strains on these networks and driven the costs of 3G services upwards, which in turn has finally given incentive for these providers to more heavily push into the WiFi market.

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