BT and The Cloud are offering free Wi-Fi access to people who use Nintendo's DS gaming device in a move that could benefit mobile workers too.
Nintendo is launching its Wi-Fi Connection service on 25 November 2005, which will allow users of its DS consoles to access Wi-Fi at several thousand UK hot spots run by The Cloud or BT.
To access the service, DS users will just have to turn on their device and select the Wi-Fi option without, in Nintendo's words, "complicated menu screens and minimum configurations".
This may prompt service providers to create more accessible Wi-Fi networks and open out the market to a wider audience.
George Polk, chief executive of The Cloud, said showing how easy and accessible Wi-Fi can be could trigger business service providers to follow suit.
"The power of the Nintendo service is that it's so easy to use — everyone who has a DS wants to play games, and now to play networked games all they have to do is be in a hotspot. This simplicity will have a huge spill-over effect in the business market," he said.
The complexities of using Wi-Fi are believed by some to be holding back mass adoption in the business market. Although BT and The Cloud have a roaming deal that allows Openzone customers to use The Cloud's hot spots, such deals are still rare. This means that a subscriber to one hot spot operator often can't use another's service. Aggregators such as iPass do exist, but again don't have roaming deals with every operator.
Some users have also complained that logging into a Wi-Fi hot spot can be a fiddly and time-consuming process, as well as an expensive one. For example, one hour's access at a BT Openzone hot spot costs £6.
But Polk claims that usability, not cost, is the major hurdle.
"The biggest barrier to hotspot usage until now has been that its so complex and difficult for a user to connect. There's no problem with demand — every business user wants access to email — but I can't count the number of times I heard people say, 'I'd love to use it but I can't figure out,'" he said.
"By showing that Wi-Fi connectivity can be easy and convenient, the Nintendo service will set the benchmark that will push the business service providers to create fabulous and easy service experiences," Polk added.