BT slashes Wi-Fi tariffs

A monthly subscription to Openzone is now much cheaper. But experts are unimpressed that one hour's access will still cost £6 - too high if you're not on expenses?

Wi-Fi operator BT Openzone is making big cuts to some of its service tariffs in the hope of getting more customers on board.

A subscription to Openzone will now cost £25 per month for up to 4,000 minutes of access. Previously, customers were charged £40 for 900 minutes, or £85 for unlimited access.

Openzone is also cutting the cost of 24 hours' access from £15 to £10. It will still cost £6 to get one hour's access, or 20p per minute for pay-as-you-go users.

UK Wi-Fi pricing has been criticised in the past for being too high and too confusing. At £25 per month, Openzone is now comparable with the US market, where standard monthly pricing is around $40.

Chris Clark, BT wireless broadband chief executive, said on Tuesday that price tariffs were being "radically simplified" in response to feedback from customers saying that they like Wi-Fi but weren't clear how they should be paying for it.

"This is the next stage of an evolutionary path for Wi-Fi," Clark told ZDNet UK.

One analyst, though, had a more sceptical view.

"It's more that BT has been doing what it usually does and skimming the top end of the market while it can," said Dean Bubley of Disruptive Analysis.

Bubley believes that the £25 per month tariff is 'about right', but isn't impressed that a single hour's access will still cost as much as £6, and one day's access £10.

"These options are aimed at casual users, but at these prices it looks to me like they're business casual, and great for people on expenses," said Bubley.

"Personally, I think they should be competing with Internet cafés, which at £1 to £2 an hour are more jeans and t-shirt casual."

Clark, though, insisted that BT's tariffs were "extra aggressive".

"Whether the £6 and £10 options are fairly priced is a question that customers must answer, not I," Clark said.

Openzone, though, is still refusing to say how many customers it has. Rumours in the market have suggested that take-up of commercial Wi-Fi services has been poor across the board.

According to Clark, the number of Wi-Fi sessions being handled by Openzone is increasing by an average of 89 percent, quarter on quarter.

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