O2 and Esat BT scramble to hit the hotspot first

3 Feb 2003

O2 is set to announce the launch of its new wireless ‘hotspot’ service today. The new service will be vying with the equivalent Esat BT offering, which was announced on Friday and is due to come into use in the Republic at the end of this month.

Esat BT’s wireless local area network (WLAN) will be based in Dun Laoghaire harbour and will be marketed under BT’s Openzone brand.

The hotspots allow consumers to use the internet without having to plug in their computer. Instead users will just need a laptop and WLAN access card. This card will allow the customer to access data at speeds of nearly 10 times faster than a standard modem and customers will be able to receive and send large volumes of data at broadband speed. Users will need to be within range of the service (in the case of Openzone, approximately 100m).

The BT Openzone 300 service costs €32 a month per user for 300 minutes. Additional minutes will be charged a 24c per minute. BT Openzone 900 will cost €64 a month for 900 minutes, with additional minutes charged at 15c a minute. BT Unlimited costs €136 per month for unlimited use.

O2 will announced its price structure during today’s briefing.

Esat BT already has Openzone sites in the UK including scores of hotels and coffee shops.

Esat BT chief executive Bill Murphy said: “As well as supplying WLAN to Dun Laoghaire harbour we have extensive plans to spread the public network to hotels, airport terminals and train stations around the country.”

From the end of this month Esat BT customers can avail of the service in Dublin through a subscription account and/or via a ‘pay-as-you-go’ scratch card pass.

Both companies are claiming that their service is the first public WLAN service.

By Suzanne Byrne