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O2 to fling out free Wi-Fi for all

Hotspots galore (and lots of lovely ads)

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O2 is planning to deploy 13,000 Wi-Fi hotspots over the next two years, with free internet access in exchange for your mobile number and a few quid from the venue.

The network won't just be for O2 customers: anyone with a mobile phone will be able to sign up to the service, which will provide free internet access while logging the customer's location and details for better delivery of targeted advertising. This will all be paid for by the venue, which might also like to make use of that advertising channel.

O2 already offers its premium subscribers (including iPhone users) access to hotspots run by The Cloud and BT OpenZone totalling around 7,500, and those deals will remain in place while O2 deploys its new free-to-all Wi-Fi network.

Newly-appointed MD of O2 Wi-Fi Gavin Franks expects to see venues such as supermarkets and department stores offering free 02-branded Wi-Fi.

Users wanting to take advantage will need to provide a mobile phone number, from any network, which will be confirmed with a text message. O2 then links the number to the MAC code (unique identity) of the kit connected, enabling it to automatically authorise future connections as well as spotting when the customer enters an area covered - enabling the delivery of the aforementioned advertising by text message or MMS.

But O2 reckons that venues hosting the service will pay for it, so targeted advertising is just a sideline. The company reminded us that 1.4 million O2 customers have already signed up for targeted advertising via O2 More, without the promise of free connectivity to entice them into it. ®

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