BT promises Wi-Fi hotspot upgrade

Following our investigation into sluggish speeds at Wi-Fi hotspots across the UK, a BT exec has told us that its working on beefing up its Wi-Fi offering, bolstering speeds and making its Wi-Fi hotspots quicker. Want to know just what BT has in store? Read on.

BT’s General Manager of Wireless Products, Ian Robinson, was forthcoming when we asked why BT Openzone’s top speed was a mere 8Mbps. “We’re currently going through the process of upgrading up to 20Mbps,” Robinson said. “However, the precise speed at any location does depend on where it is and the precise user experience is dependent on how many customers you have. It also depends how far away from the exchange you are.”

1 openzoneBT Care told us via Twitter before Christmas that, “At the moment the highest speed on Openzone is 8Mbps.” However, Robinson said this figure was based on broadband and not next-gen high speed services.

“We start with broadband, but we also deploy fibre and microwave. We actively monitor our sites, for larger sites and sites that require them we’re putting multiple broadband lines in. We have sites that have the capability up to 100MB of backhaul.”

Wi-Fi hotspots vs mobile broadband: which is better value?

When asked why simply getting online with BT Openzone was a struggle for some in areas of central London, Robinson said, “There can always be congestion at any given moment. It’s a feature of any network. I certainly don’t believe there’s a pressing issue out there.” He also said that thanks to BT’s ‘Wireless City’ in Westminster and “premier hotspots” in Starbucks, Thistle and Hilton hotels there was “fantastic coverage across the city [London].”

We also asked Robinson why BT FON was slapped with a 512Kbps speed limit. He said it was to protect the bandwidth of customers who share their own Wi-Fi as part of the service. “The 512Kbps is more than sufficient for YouTube and video serving applications,” he said. “Our customers say BT FON is good value for money and we’ve not had complaints about the speed of the service.”

Wi-Fi hotspots: Slow speeds hiding behind the scenes

Robinson was also keen to point out the most basic BT Openzone offers kick off at £5 a month, with 500 minutes web access. You do need to sign up for a year to qualify for the lower rate though. When we put it to Robinson that mobile broadband was better value for customers, he said, “We have our own mobile broadband offer and Wi-Fi access is free to customers who sign up.”

What do you make of Ian Robinson’s comments? Is BT FON fast enough to handle video? And is BT Openzone’s central London offering really “fantastic”? Make sure you tell us in the comments section below.

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