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WiFi access in UK pubs scheme goes live

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The Cloud, the UK-wide broadband WiFi hot spot network, yesterday began offering its services at 200 pubs in the UK.

Service is free for the next six weeks. Meanwhile The Cloud, which is part of the Inspired Broadcast Networks and Leisure Link Group, will roll out its services to 1,000 sites (all pubs) by the beginning of July and 3,000 sites by the end of the year.

The Cloud has access to thousands of public venues where Inspired has connected entertainment machines, which are the process of been upgraded from ISDN to broadband connections. With these connections going in WiFi access is a natural addition.

Essentially the company is building a wholesale network that will allow large mobile operators and telcos, like BT and Vodafone, to offer their customers mobile access under their own brand. The idea is WiFi access from The Cloud can be bundled with GPRS or 3G data services from mobile operators. The Cloud will also offer a pay as you go service priced so that it doesn't compete with its wholesale partners at around £5 per hour.

Ericsson, which is providing WiFi kit, and Intel backed the Cloud at a launch event in London last night.

The Cloud has signed its first service provider deal with BT OpenZone, with the revenue-sharing deal beginning on July 1.

George Polk, managing director of The Cloud, told The Register the company is also in talks with Vodafone. He expressed confidence that the overall growth of the WiFi market will allow the project to reach profitability "within the next 12 months".

But are pubs the right environment for wireless computing, we asked?

"If you're looking for a place in the middle of the say to meet someone or spend some time working on a laptop, what better place is there than a pub," Polk said.

"Not many people used laptops in coffee houses before WiFi was introduced and we expect much the same thing to happen in pubs." ®

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