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BT turns business customers into Wi-Fi hotspots

Nine months after it revealed its intentions to ZDNet UK, BT has turned its latest business routers into hotspots that can be used to offer Wi-Fi for free or for profit
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

BT has launched a new wireless router for its business customers that allows them to wirelessly share their broadband connections with others, either for free or for profit.

The latest version of the BT Business Total Broadband hub, unveiled on Monday, can effectively be turned into a BT Openzone Wi-Fi hotspot — users can give their connectivity away, or sell their customers BT Openzone vouchers and keep 25 percent of the revenue. Those vouchers can also be used at other Openzone hotspots, such as those found in airports and train stations.

According to BT, the internet channel that would be offered to end-users would be separate from that used by the business offering the hotspot. "The owner's traffic is always prioritised and the owner and guest wireless network identifiers (SSIDs) are separately listed for security," the company said in a statement. Businesses running the hotspots are also able to turn the functionality on or off using the Hub Manager on their desktops.

As with all BT Openzone hotspots, those created using the new business hub are open to use by existing Openzone customers, BT Business customers with a mobile broadband service, and members of the consumer BT Fon community — BT first introduced the Wi-Fi-sharing concept to the UK last April for home users, in partnership with the Spanish hotspot firm Fon.

According to BT, 20,000 existing customers of the BT Business Total Broadband have already received a firmware update that allows them to enable the hotspot, with another 200,000 set to receive the update in the first quarter of this year.

BT first told ZDNet UK of its intention to let business users create hotspots back in May 2008. Asked on Monday why the service took nine months to reach fruition, the company said in a statement that technical issues had been to blame.

"During routine checks of the upgraded BT Business Hubs, the team identified that a small number were resetting or opening customer applications as a result of the firmware upgrade," the statement read. "Customer experience remains at the heart of everything BT does and we were therefore taking every possible measure to ensure we remedied this issue."

ZDNet UK asked whether "opening customer applications" implied there had been a security risk, but had not received a reply at the time of writing.

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