BT lifts limits on Wi-Fi hotspot usage

The company will offer unlimited use of its Openzone public Wi-Fi hotspots and Fon hotspots to customers on its BT Total Broadband service

BT has removed the usage cap from its public Wi-Fi services, offering unlimited wireless hotspot access to its consumer fixed broadband customers as well as all UK iPhone users.

Previously, the telco constrained usage by the number of minutes used. The lifting of the cap, which took effect on Monday, opens up access to BT's 1.5 million Openzone and Fon hotspots, the telco said.

All existing and new BT Total Broadband customers plus iPhone users on O2, Orange and Vodafone, O2 mobile broadband customers and users of the Android-based Nexus One handset, will receive the unlimited access.

In its announcement, BT Retail noted that its former mobile arm O2 had abandoned its offer of unlimited data over its cellular network.

"Because of the growing number of customers with mobile devices such as tablet computers and smartphones, we know that mobile access to the internet is needed more than ever before," BT Retail's consumer managing director John Petter said in a statement.

"Now that operators like O2 are rationing 3G, BT Total Broadband customers can find fast Wi-Fi connections all over the UK's towns and cities with unlimited internet access from 1.5 million hotspots," he added.

Public Wi-Fi hotspots typically offer far greater backhaul bandwidth per user than cellular base stations, meaning there is less pressure on the operator to limit usage. They are typically located in coffee shops, airports and hotels, though BT has also rolled out 16 city-centre outdoor hotspots in the UK.

BT said the lifting of the usage cap will apply to both public and Fon hotspots, although iPhone users will not get access to these hotspots. Fon hotspots are owned by consumers who choose to share their home Wi-Fi connection with members of the public. In return, they receive access to other Fon hotspots.

Business tariffs are not affected by Monday's announcement, meaning usage caps will remain in place.

BT expects to have 2.5million hotspots in the UK and Ireland by the end of 2011.