Telecom giant BT has announced that it will be partnering with Coffee Shop chain Starbucks to provide with BT Openzone Hotspot services to all its 678 outlets from today.
Importantly, all O2 customers with Apple iPhones will be able to use Wi-Fi for free as part of their monthly allowance. BT replaces T-Mobile which had been Starbucks' Wi-Fi partner for the last six years and provides Wi-Fi access through more than 150,000 UK and Ireland locations.
More than 4.6 million BT broadband customers including those on BT FON Wi-Fi minutes will be able to email, surf and make VoIP calls at Starbucks. Wi-Fi speeds are generally faster than 3G and are more stable in theory and BT is betting on a more robust and resilient Wi-Fi coverage to compete with dongle providers.
Other users will be able to use Wi-Fi BT Openzone for as little as £7.34 per month while O2 mobile users will be able to access Wi-Fi hotspots by selecting the appropriate Wi-Fi bolt on product. Otherwise, BT charges as much as 15p per minute for Wi-Fi internet access although you can buy 500 minutes worth of surfing for as little as £5 a month.
Chris Bruce, CEO, BT Openzone, said in a statement that “Starbucks is the perfect place to work or catch up over email. Use of our Wi-Fi doubled last year and coffee shops are increasingly popular as a third place to work or log on to the Internet. We’re constantly looking to boost the choice of places to connect – where people want it. The location of Starbucks stores in the high street and travel hubs is helping to extend the reach of Wi-Fi to customers.”
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The meteoric rise of broadband dongles must really have turned up the pressure on BT. The giant has quietly build up support for its WiFi services but this is unlikely to be sufficient in the long run. Put it simply, dongles are more flexible than WiFi and although coverage can be crap and speed desperately slow, this is bound to improve over time, leaving BT in a rather delicate position.
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