O2 launches its free nationwide Wi-Fi broadband network today, pitting the UK's largest mobile operator head-to-head with rivals including BT and The Cloud.
The Spanish-owned operator will open up free Wi-Fi access to all internet users, including customers not with O2, through partnerships with restaurants, shops, and high street retailers across the UK.
O2 said it will double the number of premium public internet hotspots – those which do not piggyback on existing residential networks – currently offered by rivals by 2013. O2 claimed it is the only "genuinely free" Wi-Fi network and the only one open to customers from other companies.
The demand for data-hungry sites such as YouTube and the increasing popularity of smartphones, such as Apple's iPhone, have put a huge strain on operators' Wi-Fi networks.