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Skype-powered free Wi-Fi comes to UK high street stores

Businesses will pay to host Wicoms hot spots in high street locations, but the Wi-Fi service will be free for users, who log in using a Skype ID or email address.
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

Skype has inked an agreement with branded hotspot provider Wicoms to roll out free Wi-Fi services via outlets on British high streets.

The Free Skype WiFi service will come at no cost to users, if not to the businesses and venues running the hotspots — these will need to pay a monthly fee to Wicoms. People will be able to log in with their Skype IDs or email addresses.

The deal is part of the Skype Access programme, which usually involves people paying for connectivity by the minute.

"Our partnership with Wicoms enhances our ability to make Skype universally accessible and expands on our Wi-Fi strategy, which today provides paid Wi-Fi access at over one million locations worldwide," Skype Access programme manager Shadi Mahassel said in a statement on Monday.

The selling points for the businesses hosting the routers are twofold: a decent free Wi-Fi service with a common and straightforward login procedure will presumably bring in more customers, and the businesses will also be able to target deals at those customers through discounts and vouchers sent directly to their phones.

According to Wicoms managing director Owen Geddes (formerly with The Cloud), this will help "brick-and-mortar retailers effectively compete with online retailers".

"By [providing] Free Skype WiFi on-premise, business owners and high street retailers can open a dialogue with potential customers and encourage sales conversion with the power of the mobile phone," Geddes said.

Businesses will need to pay £9.99 a month plus VAT for the service, plus a further £49 for the router, although that equipment will come free if they sign up during October. The package will also come with a "detailed analytical dashboard" so merchants can analyse data usage on their networks.

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