BT revises its Wi-Fi prices

Corporate subscribers to the Openzone network are being offered a new deal that looks more appealing than having to pay £85 per user per month

BT is to slash the prices of its Openzone service in the hope of encouraging more companies to embrace Wi-Fi. The telco is creating a new corporate service with an up-front fee of £5 a month for each user, with additional charges depending on how much use is made of the Openzone network. The new contract terms will be introduced over the coming weeks.

Dave Hughes, BT's chief executive of wireless broadband, told ZDNet UK on Tuesday that Openzone's existing tariffs have been completely revised -- with particular focus on the unlimited access product, which currently costs £85 per month per user.

"We listened to the customers who have been trialling Openzone. They didn't want to pay £85 per month for each of a thousand users, but they do want all their employees to be able to use Wi-Fi some of the time," Hughes said, explaining that a single employee's Wi-Fi use is typically sporadic, depending whether mostly they're in the office or out on business in a given month.

On top of the £5 per user per month fee, companies that sign up will also be charged 5p per minute when they access the Openzone network. The new rate is better value than the £85 flat rate for any company whose employees use Wi-Fi for an average of less than one hour a day. Hughes said that typical corporate Wi-Fi users log on twice a week.

Hughes cautioned, though, that the product will only be available to firms that commit to a significant number of users-- probably in excess of 100 -- and a large number of minutes of access each month. For companies that can't make that guarantee, most of the existing subscriptions models will remain, such as BT Openzone 300, which gives users 300 minutes of Wi-Fi access per month for £20 per month per user.

The unlimited access product -- often cited in evidence by people who have claimed that Wi-Fi in the UK is too expensive -- is likely to be withdrawn.

Last month, BT signed deals with Vodafone, Orange and O2 that will let the three mobile operators offer Openzone access to their customers -- a move that turned BT into a Wi-Fi wholesaler. Hughes revealed that BT is looking to secure similar deals with fixed-line operators, and forecast that at least ten ISPs would have come on board by next April. "If you're a broadband provider that offers your users certain portals and services, it's obvious that some of those users will want to be able to access them when they're away from home," Hughes said.