The Cloud launches its first Wi-Fi hotzone

Manchester has gained blanket Wi-Fi access, thanks to The Cloud and the Manchester Evening News

Wireless Internet provider The Cloud launched its first hotzone in Manchester city centre on Tuesday.

The company has gone into partnership with regional newspaper the Manchester Evening News (MEN) for the launch, with the newspaper's website, Manchester Online, acting as a free-to-access gateway into the paid service.

"We think hotzones and city-centre coverage generally should have a highly relevant media partner," The Cloud's chief marketing officer James Saunders told ZDNet UK.

"Enabling these content services is something that Wi-Fi can do. It has local relevance and we've managed to do an appropriate deal with them so they benefit from free access, and we benefit from their support in terms of marketing our new UltraWi-Fi [tariffs]."

Saunders described The Cloud's service — available at £11.99 for a week's connectivity and £11.99 per month on a year's contract — as an alternative to datacards, saying it was intended as "a complementary service for the bit in between the home and the office", rather than a home DSL replacement.

Wi-Fi networks tend to offer superior access speeds to those available using 3G services. However, individual connection speeds can fall if too many users are connected to the same access point.

The service has no usage limit, although The Cloud retains the right to impose a reasonable-use policy if they "think there's abuse going on".

The Cloud is also in talks with potential partners to launch its other nine hotzones, described by Saunders as being "at high levels of completion".

The zones — in Birmingham, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, Nottingham, Oxford and parts of London — are already mostly usable, but will "get individual attention" when partners are identified.

Users of BT Openzone, O2, SkypeZones, Vonage, iPass and Nintendo Wi-Fi are able to use the Manchester network, through roaming agreements with The Cloud.