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Public Wi-Fi is a dog's dinner, says Cloud founder

Needs serious investment now

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Britain's Wi-Fi networks need masses more investment if they're to fulfill their potential, says the founder of The Cloud. George Polk founded the network in 2003 and left in 2007. BSkyB snapped it up last week.

But he wasn't going to paint a rosy picture for the new owner's benefit, we discovered.

"Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes your login credentials work, sometimes they don't," he told us. Operators had neglected investing the networks because of the classic chicken-and-egg dilemma. "Either the devices weren't there, or they were and the networks were not being used. We're now at a convergence point, and 2m devices becomes a meaningful thing – it becomes incredibly important.

"Networks will start to get judged on the basis of quality. Sky sees a commercial opportunity and it's paying real money for The Cloud."

How much, we don't know – the sum hasn't been disclosed yet.

Polk said he was skeptical about O2's rival announcement that it would be rolling out a free ad-supported Wi-Fi network to compete with The Cloud.

"They said they'll do it in 450 locations – I'll bet those are O2 stores. But hey – O2 already have Wi-Fi in those stores.

"The question is to see whether operators invest money." Polk doesn't think they have a choice.

"BT is going to be in the commanding position that everybody else has to compete with. It's more robust than some, and it has roaming into other countries. And so that sort of level of service is going to be necessary for all the other operators to get to." ®

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