UK gets 'virtually' free wireless hot spots

If you're looking for free wireless access on the move, the answer could be to pop into a sandwich bar. New hot spots support both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

Sandwich bar chain Benugo has established wireless hot spots at two of its London stores, in partnership with wireless communications firm Broadscape.

The hot spots will give Benugo customers free high-speed Internet access, if they have a laptop or PDA that is either 802.11b or Bluetooth compatible.

When they make a purchase, customers will be given an access code that allows them to log into the wireless network for up to 30 minutes, letting them check email and surf the Web while they're away from the office.

The two stores are located at St Johns Street, Clerkenwell and at Berwick Street, Soho. Benugo hopes to boost trade at these outlets by offering this free high-speed wireless access to its customers.

"We believe that offering this service for free will encourage an increase in turnover whilst allowing us to concentrate on our core business -- excellent food," said Tim Parfitt, Benugo's finance director, in a statement.

Starbucks already offers free Wi-Fi at five of its London stores -- plus one in Birmingham -- in partnership with T-Mobile.

According to Broadscape, this "virtually free" hot spot model will prove increasingly popular, as wireless Internet access becomes the 21st century equivalent of providing free copies of the day's newspapers.

"We at Broadscape firmly believe that our 'free to end user' approach will be embraced by venue owners such as hotels and cafes, particularly at a time when a drop in retail spending is forcing businesses to differentiate themselves from the competition," Theo Platt, director of Broadscape, told ZDNet UK.

"For the end user it is a choice of another 'mobile' bill with BT/T-Mobile/Megabeam or free access with Broadscape's partners," Platt added.

Click here to see a map of the UK's Wi-Fi hot spots.

Discover the latest developments in Wi-Fi, 3G, GPRS and other cutting-edge wireless technologies at ZDNet UK's Wireless News Section.

Let the editors know what you think in the Mailroom.