Wi-Fi a fierce battleground for broadband providers
Competition in the UK broadband market has never been fiercer. Consumers are getting more for their money than ever before and speeds are increasing as internet service providers (ISPs) look for ways to keep hold of their existing customers and sign up new ones.
But speed boosts and more generous download limits will only go so far in the battle for broadband subscribers, which is why the major ISPs are turning to sweeteners such as free Wi-Fi access.
BT, the UK's biggest broadband provider, claims to offer its customers access to the largest Wi-Fi network in the world. Only this week, the telecoms giant revealed its global Wi-Fi footprint now exceeds 7.5 million hotspots, including more than 500,000 in Greater London alone.
Over six million BT broadband subscribers are able to enjoy free and unlimited usage of the ISP's Wi-Fi hotspots, which can be found in homes, city centres and independent businesses across the country. Among the big-name brands to offer access to BT's wireless broadband service are GAME, John Lewis and Starbucks.
It's not just BT that's taken to tempting consumers with the offer of free Wi-Fi. Earlier this year, Sky launched its own public Wi-Fi service powered by The Cloud, providing its Broadband Unlimited subscribers with uncapped access to more than 14,000 hotspots.
Not to be outdone, Virgin Media has made a big deal of the wireless network it rolled out to 72 London Underground stations in time for the Olympics and Paralympics. During the Games, the service delivered more than eight million tweets, emails, webpages and Facebook posts.
The cable company's Wi-Fi proposition will remain free to all Tube passengers, regardless of their broadband provider, until 2013. In the new year, the service will move to a subscription basis for any travellers not signed up to Virgin Media's broadband or mobile products.
As well as expanding its coverage to up to 120 stations by the end of the year, Virgin Media will start offering rival ISPs access to the network on a wholesale basis.
All this highlights the competitiveness of the UK's broadband market and proves that rivalry between providers ultimately ends up benefiting the consumer.
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