Wireless access has just got cheaper thanks to a new service by veteran price-cutter Freedom2Surf which promises to halve what BT charges and beat the rest of the market as the same time.
The company has bought wholesale access to BT's OpenZone hotspots, which it is reselling at a smaller margin than everyone else. The final price is still high compared with the US - but it's a start.
"This is real, there are no catches," said Chris Panayis, managing director of Freedom2Surf . "In ADSL, we did 2Mbit/s at £14.99, so people are used to us being cheaper and better." Panayis claims the eight year old ISP has tens of thousands of customers for existing broadband and dial-up services. His company can undercut BT's Wi-Fi and still make a profit because it is smaller and more efficient than BT, he said.
Freedom2surf offers roughly similar vouchers to BT, and is pretty clearly better value at low usage levels. Freedom2Surf starts at 10p per minute (compared with BT's 20p). A voucher for one hour's online time within a day costs £4.50, compared with BT's £6.
"At the moment, the most popular package is pay as you go and hourly stuff," says Panayis, which is not surprising, as Freedom2Surf does not offer a contract, and its monthly voucher (20 hours for £30) actually looks poor value compared with BT's monthly ticket (£40 for 66 hours), unless you know you will need less than 20 hours.
"Our next specific move would probably be a contract," said Panayis. Freedom2Surf is also considering adding Wi-Fi as an extension to broadband customers' bills, and is talking to other hotspot operators about the possibility of adding more hotspots.
The Freedom2Surf prices seem to compare well with other operators, though it is hard to compare with T-Mobile, which appears to offer more usage hours in a given time, and Surf and Sip, which does not say how much connect time is allowed.
The prices are still well above those in the US of course, but then we aren't expecting a Wi-Fi bubble to burst over here.