In an effort to provide more connectivity when its customers travel outside the US, AT&T has signed a deal with BSkyB-owned WiFi hotspot provider The Cloud to offer up to 1GB per month “free” when they visit the UK.
AT&T customers will then become eligible to connect to over 16,000 locations across the UK using the operator’s WiFi International app. Although AT&T is likely to appeal to business users or those that travel to the UK regularly, the need to subscribe to a data add-on application just to connect to a WiFi hotpsot may leave a sour taste, notes the Next Web.
The Cloud, a BSkyB subsidiary, provides public access Wi-Fi hotspots in the UK with over 11,000 Wi-Fi hotspots network access points in the UK. Sky offers free wireless internet for their Sky Broadband customers in the UK via The Cloud.
But customers aren’t really getting free WiFi access, of course. They must be a carrier subscriber to get the free service. Hotspot 2.0, which lets carriers seamlessly utilize WiFi hotspots, is likely to enable more such deals in the future. Hotspot 2.0 uses the carrier-supplied SIM card to supply automated authentication and security.
According to the Wi-Fi Alliance, about 200 million households use Wi-Fi networks and there are about 750,000 Wi-Fi hotspots worldwide. Wi-Fi is used by over 700 million people and there are about 800 million new Wi-Fi devices every year.
Other carrier-controlled WiFi networks include:
- Japan’s KDDI and Ruckus. The companies are building out a Wi-Fi network composed of 100,000 hot spots. KDDI subscribers can use the new KDDI “au Wi-Fi SPOT” service free. Others can’t.
- Ruckus and Towerstream have built out wholesale hotzones throughout New York City, San Francisco and Chicago in 2011 as well as Grand Central Terminal and Times Square, using TowerStream’s backhaul installed on nearby tall buildings.
- Ruckus has completed its first demonstration with a major U.S. operator, rumored to be Verizon.
- AT&T Mobility announced its own hotzone thrust, expanding its WiFi hotzones into more areas of Chicago, New York and San Francisco to offload heavy 3G traffic.
- Boingo Wireless has 3,000 hotspots in Japan, with a roaming agreement operated by the Wi2 300 service.
- China Unicom and China Mobile sell iPhones but they are restricted to 2G. So the iPhone is packaged with a WiFi-only service, and a pre-pay of 2,400 yuan worth of WiFi usage. China Mobile plans to add a further one million WiFi hotspots around the country over the next three years.
Sprint today announced that it has formed an advertising alliance with European mobile giant Telefonica. Together, Sprint and Telefónica will explore efficient ways of providing global advertisers and agencies with multicountry mobile campaigns reaching some 370 million customers in total. The intention is that the network will grow further in scale, particularly to include Asia. Telefónica, one of the largest telecommunication companies in the world, has been pioneering mobile advertising, particularly in the United Kingdom, since 2009.
Meanwhile, three of the UK’s largest mobile networks have cast aside their differences to form a mobile advertising network. O2, Vodafone and Everything Everywhere will create a joint venture to provide demographic targeting to advertisers. UK ad spend reached a record £203 million in 2011, while the global mobile payments market is looking set to hit $500 billion within the next two years.
According to a report by In-Stat Research entitled “Wi-Fi Hotspots: the Mobile Operator’s 3G Offload Alternative,” worldwide hotspot venues are projected to increase to over 1.2 million venues in 2015 from under 421,000 in 2010. Usage will follow similar growth, increasing from four billion connects in 2010 to 120 billion connects by 2015.
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