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May 4, 2006

The Cloud Goes Ultracheap with Unlimited Access

By Glenn Fleishman

The Cloud’s UltraWiFi offering provides unlimited usage on its network for £11.99 ($22.50) per month with 1-year commitment: The subscription will be available starting 1 July 2006. This is a shot across the bow to every single other Wi-Fi provider in the UK, where rates are typically astoundingly and irritatingly high compared to the U.S.  and Asia. Europe has generally remained at a two to three times multiple over prices in those regions.

UltraWiFi comes in two flavors: Monthly for £11.99 with a one-year commitment, and weekly at the same rate of £11.99 but on a pay-as-you-go basis. That is, a week of unlimited Wi-Fi (any week you choose) is the same as a month without the ongoing commitment.

Because The Cloud has over 7,000 locations, including railroad stations, hotels, and airports, this pricing should produce a squeeze on competitors operating in similar venues, notably T-Mobile UK. The Cloud will start offering city centre service in the City of London soon, and in eight other UK centres in the coming months. This kind of pricing and coverage makes Wi-Fi a practical alternative to mobile phone service, or at least a good complement for dual-mode phones. The Guardian writes more about this.

In the U.S., T-Mobile offers unlimited Wi-Fi at about 7,000 locations (mostly retail, but some airports) for $20 (£11)/month for voice subscribers or $30 (£16)/month for others (1-year commitment), or $40 (£22)/month on a month-to-month basis. In the UK, T-Mobile charges £23.50 ($44) per month for unlimited usage. That’s a huge differential; it may boil down to which venues people use.

Update: An alert reader noted that T-Mobile UK has a very aggressive 3G cellular data plan that throws in Wi-Fi access. Sign up with a 12-month plan for Web ‘n’ Walk Professional and get a PC Card, quasi-unlimited 3G service, and 12 months of unlimited Wi-Fi service for £20 ($38) per month. The card is £60 with a 12-month plan or free with an 18-month commitment. (Quasi-unlimited? Like most cell operators, T-Mobile says any word means whatever they want it to mean. A long footnote explains that usage of more than 2 GB of data transfer per month will be scrutinized, and you could be throttled down after two consecutive months of such use. VoIP is prohibited.) In the US, T-Mobile offers unlimited GPRS plus unlimited Wi-Fi to voice subscribers for $50 per month with a year’s commitment.

Posted by Glennf at May 4, 2006 1:14 PM

Categories: hotspots

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