More wireless hotspots for Britain, as BT, Virgin invest

by Guy Kewney | posted on 05 March 2003

Somewhat eclipsed, perhaps, by the recent Inspired Networks announcement, Broadreach Networks is now readying a large-scale roll-out of up to 800 public WiFi networks under the "ReadytoSurf" brand name, by the end of the year.

Guy Kewney

Backing from Intel Communications Fund and Virgin as well as BT Group has been announced for the roll-out.

The network is accessed via pay-as-you go vouchers, which can be purchased within the premises where the ReadytoSurf service is offered.

Broadreach says it has also signed agreements "with a number of leading service providers who will be providing their customers with access to this new network."

Customers will be able to obtain broadband access out of the home or office using their current ISP username and password, with all charges consolidated onto their monthly ISP bill.

The first such agreements will shortly be going live with BT Openworld and There are already 37 public sites, but there will be more, soon, with "a major expansion into additional hotspots, working in conjunction with leading coffee shop chains, retailers, transport locations, hotels, sports clubs and similar sites."

The plan is to have 800 such hotspots throughout the UK by the end of 2003, joining existing partners such as Virgin Megastores, L.A Fitness, Virgin Rail Group, Network Rail, Holmes Place and EAT Cafes.

Magnus McEwen-King, CEO of Broadreach said, "Broadreach is building the leading network of public broadband Internet access hotspots in the UK. Our agreements with the service providers, through which we will be directing a large number of customers to ReadytoSurf sites, is a major attraction to premises owners."

Robert Samuelson, Director of Corporate Development at Virgin, said Virgin is also looking at opportunities to deploy Broadreach's services across the group to complement the service offerings from Virgin's other operating companies, such as Virgin Megastores and Virgin Rail Group.

They also got a public puff from Intel: "Users will benefit from increased wireless access points like public hotspots and services offered from companies such as Broadreach," said Stacy Smith, Vice President and General Manager, Intel Europe, Middle East and Africa.

They paid for it, with a puff in return, for Intel mobile technology: "Hotspots, wireless capability and wireless enabled laptops like those equipped with Intel Centrino mobile technology are designed to offer users greater flexibility and usability that can help them to increase productivity while on the go," Smith said. Broadreach had no option but to include this in its press release.

Intel Corporation announced in October 2002 plans to invest $150 million in companies developing Wi-Fi technology. The investment is another step in the company's efforts to accelerate wireless network deployment and proliferate the Wi-Fi standard worldwide.