BT Teams With FON To Offer Nationwide WiFi In UK
British Telecom has invested in FON, the Spanish WiFi provider, and says it will build out a free (to BT customers), UK-wide free WiFi network. MarketWatch reports that “BT’s three million plus Total Broadband customers will be able to join the FON WiFi network, which already provides more than 190,000 hotspots worldwide. By doing so, BT’s customers will effectively turn part of their home WiFi system into a public network, which others can then access.”
Google and Skype are also among FON’s investors.
BT customers will be able to access FON hotspots around the world for no additional charge. And while “free” — or at least nationwide — WiFi seems to be marching forward in Europe, in the U.S. it appears to have stalled. Municipal WiFi efforts, such as the one to be built by Google and Earthlink in San Francisco, are being reevaluated or shelved.
Uniformly available WiFi has implications for both local and mobile advertising and mobile Internet adoption and usage. Free WiFi, or at least uniform, nationwide access to WiFi (outside of carrier broadband cards), is highly desirable to consumers but spotty and inconsistent in the US. If it were reliably available in the US it would help free the iPhone and boost consumer usage of the mobile Internet. It would also represent a potential threat to the mobile carrier stranglehold on the US consumer.
However, because of US mobile operator financial interests and competitive concerns, I suspect it will be a some time, if ever, before we in the US see anything like what BT is doing in the UK, although Sprint and Google previously announced a deal for WiMax development.