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Barclays: So sorry about LIBOR... How about some free Wi-Fi?

1,500 branches to become coffee shops minus the coffee, food and tables

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BT is putting free Wi-Fi into 1,500 branches of Barclays Bank - presumably so that impatient customers can do some online banking while queuing for a teller.

Barclays can easily afford its £290m fine for attempting to rig the global borrowing-rate benchmark LIBOR, and thus it can easily pay for the new wireless service. Perhaps it's hoped the move will foster loyalty, although it's hard to imagine that camping within reach of the wireless connectivity will lead one to do more banking.

But more connectivity is always welcomed if only because it competes with the mobile operators and benefits disruptive players such as Devicescape, which makes use of free Wi-Fi networks to replicate cellular infrastructure. Another 1,500 high-street locations is a good thing, therefore.

It's still small potatoes to The Cloud, which offers 16,000 locations around the UK, and today announced that Americans with an AT&T contract will get free use of those while visiting Blightly. They'll only get 1GB of data, though, capped each month and subject to a charge if they want more, which is odd considering how few of The Cloud's hotspots bill for use these days.

But visitors won't notice, and may be grateful they signed up to AT&T's Data Global Add-On package which bundles the connectivity along with an app to help make use of it.

Wi-Fi networking is increasingly becoming part of the cellular mix, and once Hotspot 2 is widely deployed, wireless connectivity is going to increase dramatically. Hotspot 2 will allow phones and other gadgets to roam onto Wi-Fi networks as though they were cellular networks, and use SIM-based authentication to ensure they are billed correctly depending on their tariff and bundles.

But that's for the future: for the moment it's just more free Wi-Fi for anyone hanging around a branch of Barclays, ideal regardless if one is waiting in a queue or just casing the joint. ®

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