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More About O2 Wi-Fi Nationwide Network

The announcement by O2 that it is planning to roll out a free wireless, nationwide network brings a number of questions regarding how the service will be deployed.

In the official press release (here), O2 says that it will double the number of premium hotspots currently offered by BT Openzone and the Cloud combined by 2013.

What constitute "premium" hotspots hasn't been clearly defined except that they will be managed through partnerships with key venue owners.

BT claims to operate more than two million hotspots nationwide, a mix of BT FON and premium hotspots while The Cloud currently has 22,000 hotspots internationally.

O2 was one of the first to provide unlimited Wi-Fi access to iPhone users three years ago and the move is aimed at allowing more people to use free public Wi-Fi instead of its own data network.

The service will be subsidised by advertising for non-customers and we suspect that O2 will use it as a marketing tool to sell its own products.

Whether Tesco Mobile - which is 50 per cent owned by Telefonica Europe - or Giffgaff will count as "O2 customers" remains to be seen.

Also O2 has hinted that it will bring O2 WiFi together with O2 Media (its advertising branch) and O2 Money (its VISA backed debit card service).