Skype's the limit as company offers free wifi

Skype is planning to sponsor wifi hotspots across the UK during Internet Week Europe. Which seems unusually generous...

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013
It’s like Christmas and your birthday all rolled into one: Skype, the internet telephony company, says in recognition of Internet Week Europe in the second week of November (nope, we didn’t know either), it’s going to sponsor all the public wifi hotspots in the UK, allowing people all over the country to access public wifi for free for a whole week. Apparently, the company wants ‘everyone participating in Internet Week Europe, as well as the rest of the UK, to benefit from the festival’s launch. Aah. Aren’t they a generous-hearted bunch?

There are, naturally, caveats: to access wifi, you’ll need to register for Skype Access, which allows you to use your Skype credit to pay for hotspot access. It’s not particularly limiting – BT OpenZone, The Cloud and Spectrum Interactive, three of the largest public wifi providers in the UK, are among those whose hotspots you can use (there are 200,000 registered Skype Access hotspots all over the world), but the cynics among us might argue that this is a grand opportunity to boost the number of Skype Access subscribers out there. No word on how much it’s going to cost the company, either. Things could begin to get pretty expensive if everyone starts logging on and catching up on iPlayer…

Still: Skype has certainly pipped London mayor Boris Johnson to the post. Back in May, Johnson promised that ‘every lamp post, every bus stop’ in the capital will offer wifi as a matter of course by the time the 2012 Olympics rolls around. 22 of London’s 32 boroughs have signed up to the scheme, but so far, we’re yet to see a lamp post or bus stop broadcasting wifi signals.

There’s been more progress on the tubes, though. This week saw the beginning of a trial offering commuters free wifi on tube trains for the next six months. The scheme was launched at Charing Cross on November 1 and offers BT broadband customers on trains passing through the station on the Bakerloo and Northern Lines (and in the station’s ticket halls) free wifi. Although accessing anything in the few seconds you’re in a station might prove challenging.

We just hope Transport for London isn’t using the last couple of days to measure the scheme’s success. Considering there’s a tube strike on at the moment, uptake might not have been as high as it had hoped.  

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