O2 shoots dead pay-as-you-surf Wi-Fi model

Opinion

O2 shoots dead pay-as-you-surf Wi-Fi model

This morning's news that O2 has taken the unprecedented step of committing to provide genuinely free Wi-Fi regardless of whether or not you're their customer is a mixed bag.

I believe freedom of access to the internet is crucial for the development of British businesses, and it is great to see a provider taking the view that the more people it can get online, the better off it will be.

Let's face it, regardless of whether they make any money off the hordes of people who will sign up, O2 can (and very probably will) bombard their hotspots with advertising.

But what I find even more interesting, and has implications for business comms providers, is that O2 has effectively put a bullet in the head of the pay-as-you-surf Wi-Fi model.

And its rivals, BT Openzone and The Cloud - which is expected to be the subject of an acqusition bid in the near future - will be under pressure to respond in some way, because as things stand they're set to lose out big time.

Why would any of us sign up for their services when there's a free competitor?

In the corporate world I think there is also cause to stop and evaluate the business model; this move could potentially win more corporate business for O2, and the implications for pure-play b2b comms providers are clear to see.

What concessions, if any, can they make to keep people on board? And can they risk competing with a similar model?

This was first published in January 2011

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