O2 has launched O2 WiFi offering free WiFi to anyone, regardless of whether or not they are an O2 customer.
Rather than focus on their existing customer base or charge non O2 customers for access, O2 has taken the view that their revenue stream will come from the venue partners. O2′s aim is to make life easier for WiFi users and build a network of strategic venue partnerships to benefit the brand. The service will be attractive to venue partners because everyone can use it.
This quarter O2 is rolling out 450 free hotspots and by 2013 they aim to have approximately 15,000 hotspots (double the number currently offered through existing partnerships). Venues will include shops, restaurants and other indoor and outdoor locations across the UK. To ensure high quality service, O2 will not be using residential connections with limited bandwidth.
O2 aims to deliver a simple, fast and secure user experience with a simple sign-up process. O2 customers with WiFi devices will also benefit from auto-provisioning by the end of the year.
According to O2, only 20% of people who have access to free public WiFi on O2 tariffs actively use it despite the majority of devices being WiFi enabled. They believe that customers are discouraged by barriers which include complexity in activation, uncertainty of where WiFi is free and the variable quality of the current experience.
The launch of O2 WiFi looks like great news for WiFi users everywhere. It will be interesting to see how many venues switch from their existing providers because high quality, free WiFi, from a recognised brand, will be very attractive to their customers. Whether you’re using a laptop or mobile phone, fast WiFi will often deliver a better experience than 3G and if it’s free as well then it’s the obvious choice.