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ChinaNet bestows free Wi-Fi upon lucky Android few

Shanghai phone booths get souped up

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ChinaNet, the ISP brand of China Telecom, has launched a public Wi-Fi service in 500 of its Shanghai telephone booths, and while most users will have to pay Android handsets get in for free.

The service launched on 15 March, and covers the Yu Garden, Huaihai Road and the People's Square. ChinaNet helpfully describes the Wi-Fi service in the People's Daily as "18 times faster" than the existing 3G coverage, but it's the decision to provide free connectivity to Android devices using the ChinaNet dialler that has attracted most attention.

"The service should be offered free for all smartphone users regardless of their mobile OS," points out Asian Tech Blog Penn Olson, not unreasonably arguing that all mobile phones should be considered equal.

There has been much talk of tariffs based on the device being connected - laptop users could pay more than those with a tablet, while smartphone users pay less still on the grounds they consume less bandwidth, and so on. But as the categories of device blur together that gets difficult, and it's arguable how effective such a policy would be.

We've asked ChinaNet what's motivated them to give Android users a free ride, and we'll let you know when we hear back. ®

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