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BT to intro public 802.11 WLANs in UK

400 hotspots by 2003

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Another day - another business strategy from BT.

This time it's BT's new approach to mobile communications, which the telco claims could be worth as much £500 million in the next five years.

The headline-grabbing part of this latest review is the creation of the UK's first public access Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN).

Guessing that the UK Radio Agency is about to allow commercial services to operate across the 2.4 GHz radio spectrum, BT wants to install around 400 WLAN "hotspots" by June 2003 (4,000 by June 2005 so it says) to give people broadband access on the move.

BT said it will work closely with Motorola and Cisco to build the new network.

Once up and running, it means that as long as users are within 100 metres of a WLAN hotspot and they have the right software on their laptop or handheld device, then they will be able to access the Internet or their corporate networks at speeds of up to 500 kbps.

BT wants the hotspots in key public sites such as hotels, railway stations, airports, bars and coffee shops, and is already talking to Costa Coffee concerning a possible deal.

Elsewhere, BT is also re-entering the mobile phone business after selling off its mobile business less than six months ago.

However, this time it won't be building its own network but intends instead to buy airtime from its former mobile division, mmO2, to provide services for its corporate customers under the BT brand.

The new service is expected to deliver around £150 million a year in additional revenues by the end of 2005.

Shares in BT were up 4.5p (1.7 per cent) at 269.5p by mid morning.

On Monday BT Group chief exec, Ben Verwaayen, unveiled a strategic review which included the creation of "no frills" broadband access. ®

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