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Wednesday, 10 April, 2002, 07:26 GMT 08:26 UK
BT goes wireless again
Woman working at a laptop in a cafe
Hot coffee, hot spot: wireless broadband soon at cafes
British Telecom is to re-enter the wireless market, less than six months after spinning off its mobile phone business.

BT Group is pursuing a two-pronged strategy: re-establishing its brand in the mobile phone market, and setting up a public wireless broadband network.

We intend to build a national network of access points around key public sites such as hotels, railway stations, airports, bars and coffee shops - all within reach of business travellers and commuters

Pierre Danon, BT Retail
The so-called wireless LAN network will allow people with a laptop or handheld device like a palmtop to send and receive data at broadband speed while they are away from their home or office.

BT plans to target its wireless broadband access at corporate customers first. Consumers will be able to access the service in 2005 at the earliest.

And the launch of the network will not start before June, once the UK Radiocommunications Agency has allowed commercial services to operate across the 2.4GHz spectrum.

Looking for 'hotspots'

Wireless broadband access depends on the installation of so-called "hotspots".

BT Retail chief executive Pierre Danon
BT's Pierre Danon hopes for an extra 500m revenue a year

Within 100 metres of such wireless hotspots, people with a mobile device, the right network card and the right software, will be able to use their devices to access data.

It is for people on the move, but taking a break.

BT plans to install about 400 hotspots by June next year, in places like coffee shops, hotels, railway stations, airports and bars.

By June 2005, BT hopes to have 4,000 hotspots in place.

The wireless LAN - which stands for Local Area Network - will be developed in conjunction with Cisco Systems and Motorola.

BT is currently talking to Costa Coffee about setting up wireless LAN in its chain of coffee shops, and says it is in "advanced talks with all the leading retailers and property owners to create the right geography and number of outlets".

Once the service is opened up to consumers, BT plans to offer access through subscription or pay-as-you-go.

Virtual mobile network

BT will also move back into the conventional mobile telephony again, but without building its own mobile phone network.

The company says it will be a mobile service provider, buying airtime from its former Cellnet subsidiary, now called MMO2.

The service will be aimed at business users as well, and BT hopes to attract customers by offering integrated telecoms services.

BT is emulating a similar strategy to that of Virgin Mobile, which operates a virtual network using the services of One2One - the operator which is currently being rebranded as T-Mobile.

But BT insists that it has no plans to become a fully-fledged virtual network itself, which could be seen as an attempt not to tread on the toes of its MMO2 spin-off.

BT hopes that in five years time the new mobile strategy will earn it an extra 500m ($716m) annually.

See also:

09 Apr 02 | Business
Computer surfing on the beach
08 Apr 02 | Sci/Tech
BT offers new way to connect to net
08 Apr 02 | Business
BT 'puts customer first'
31 Mar 02 | Sci/Tech
Struggle to get broadband
27 Mar 02 | Business
BT job axe falls on call centres
18 Jan 02 | Business
O2 prepares to hit the streets
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